Monday, 17 May 2010

Eyes Wide Open

Being touted as the Jewish 'Brokeback Mountain', this film takes a homophobic society and places two men in love within it's midst. But does this alternative look at Jerusalem make you rather keep your eyes tightly shut than left wide open?

If you walk into this film thinking you might see Nicole Kidman nude again, then this will be a huge disappointment. Instead this takes place within Jerusalem's Orthodox Jewish society as the main character Aaron reopens a butcher shop after his father's death. It's not long until young, handsome Ezri enters and starts working there, then things start going a bit ... gay.

This film is well thought out and looks gorgeous, you can almost taste the life within the city. The direction and cinematography are beautiful and for something that is essentially at a slower pace, you are never once left bored, something only a gifted director could do. For a film that relies more on what is not being said, than what is, it successfully draws the audience into the building tension, the awkward situations and the difficult experiences these two have to go through.

Aaron is a family man who clearly adores his wife, but the main problem I had was that he 'turned' way too quickly. This could be argued that he had always been a homosexual and could resist the temptations of the flesh, until now. It might also be argued that the grief of losing his father has caused this, or on another note, his anger at God. Aaron states that the love is in the pain, that God tests us and that everything is not supposed to be easy, that the struggle is what makes life enjoyable and this is testament to the rest of the film. By giving in to his desire, he makes the struggle even worse. As soon as the gossip begins, he continues to carry on with Ezri without the slightest hesitation, he is in fact walking onwards with eyes wide open, and does not care what anyone else thinks, to the point of selfishness. Although what makes this different from other films about closet homosexuals, is Ezri.

Ezri enters the film having been seemingly kicked out by his boyfriend at the time. He still clearly loves this man and pursues him even near the end of the movie, which makes Aaron almost a rebound figure. Aaron argues with the local Rabbi that Ezri is full of life, that he should not have to leave and might as well just say he loves him, but looking back at the film, I don't think ever once was love mentioned. Instead, this was about the temptations of the flesh. Ezri, it seems, has built up a reputation for tempting good men and so it offers up the idea that Ezri is more out for what he can get, rather than being in love with Aaron. After all, staying with him he gets somewhere free to live, a job, food and regular sex. Ezri also seems to enjoy stirring up trouble, going to the synagogue when he knows he's not wanted, approaching his ex-boyfriend, swimming in the nude and even going to Aaron's family house to eat.

Once Ezri leaves, Aaron returns to the lake where it all started and bathes himself, almost as if ridding himself of the 'impurities' he has suffered, or creating some kind of circle as if to isolate the events. But, either way, he knows that he cannot stay and, like the relationship commented on by the Rabbi between a local girl and boy, it's a love that will never be but, in Aaron's case, I question whether it was love at all. Whereas Brokeback Mountain there was a strong romance, Eyes Wide Open is perhaps more controversial as, not only is it set in a religious society, it is more about the flesh, to the point where they both work in a butchers. It would be too easy to make comparisons because there are two men who fall for each other, because in fact, they are two completely different films and to be honest, I enjoyed Brokeback more.

The reasons why are because it almost becomes arrogant to not let the audience in to where their homosexual desires have come about, never once does the audience get too close to Aaron and really, we don't get close to Ezri at all. I also felt any parallel storylines should have been given more attention as it felt like we spent way too much time at the butchers or at Aaron's house. I would have liked to have spent more time with his wife for example, rather than watching them cut up meat. Even though it deals with such a fiery subject matter, the whole film felt rather tired as if the frenzy of love that is going on between them is almost non-existent, for something that is supposed to be passionate, I didn't feel the passion at all.

Overall, this film is a good lesson on the understated, on how to use the camera to convey emotion rather than script but rather than knocking me down it instead left me feeling a little cheated. Wait until it comes on Film4 then see it then, but if you're not a fan of slow-burning foreign films or not too bothered about beautiful camerawork, you could easily give it a miss.

Rating: 6/10

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