from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
|Close My Eyes is about forbidden love. A
brother and sister (Clive Owen and Saskia Reeves)
finally allowed a long-dormant, unspoken attraction to
erupt into lust. This explosive situation was
exacerbated by the fact that they waited to consummate
their lust until the sister was married, and the husband
soon caught her in some lies about her absences. Before
the consummation of the incest, the brother and the
husband (Alan Rickman) had bonded over some common
interests, and their friendship had become close enough
that the husband, at first unaware that he was talking
to the man who had cuckolded him, confided his
suspicions to the brother.
The husband finally put the pieces together and figured out what was going on, but instead of getting angry, he just let the siblings know that he knew, understood, and had forgiven them. At that point the incest had run its course for the sister, but not for the brother, who had turned the affair into a full-blown obsession. The redefined relationship among the three of them was utterly uncomfortable for everyone.
The film ends with their awkwardness. The three of them took a brisk autumn walk together. The husband and wife walked together, not quite in sync, while the brother trailed behind them, within earshot, but not really part of the conversation. It's the kind of scene that can make audience members shift uncomfortably in their chairs and look away in embarrassment.
I guess the film is supposed to excel as a character study, but that's a difficult position to support when the audience is kept totally in the dark about the characters' motivations. True, there are characters, but there is no study.
The script fails to explain why the following occurred:
1) The sister claimed she was totally happy with her husband just before diving into her brother's dick. Perhaps she had some reasonable motivation, but the audience is never let in on it.
The script also makes all the symbols and allegories extremely obvious, so obvious that the characters more or less explain them in dialogue. For example, two men sit on a train together, talking while deploring the shoddy construction along the route, and the conversation goes something like this:
The brother's boss: "I say, it's all sort of a metaphor for the failings of the Thatcher administration, isn't it, old chap?"
Close My Eyes doesn't try to hide the fact that it is arthouse film which wanders far from the beaten track with scenes you'd never see in a box office smash. In addition to the awkward ending and the explicit incestuous sex, we also listen to the husband and brother discussing Proust, and watch as the brother and his boss use the latter's AIDS to make slimy developers uncomfortable. If it were an American movie, it would include some variation of "gay cowboys eating pudding" (Cartman's characterization of all American indie movies), and I would label it "made for Sundance."
But it's not just arthouse in general. It's 1991 British arthouse. 1991 was a long time ago. It may seem fairly recent, but take into consideration that a 13-year-old boy who watched this when it came out is 40 now, and he has probably aged better than this film. The film seems downright quaint, filled not just with the usual old-time British quaintness, but with a complete sense that the whole story belongs to a lost time and place, possibly in another universe. It's filled with references to how the modern developments of the Thatcher era were destroying the traditional appeal of London's classic architecture, and ... well ... I guess I had forgotten how obsessed everyone was with AIDS at the time.
The film does have plusses. Unlike typical arthouse films, its production values are solid: the cinematography is first-rate, the musical score is evocative, and the melodrama is elevated by a tremendous cast of seasoned professional actors. And of course, there is plenty of beautiful nudity. Clive Owen's dick makes a few appearances in the process of being offered to Saskia Reeves and Helen Fitzgerald, who both show the full monty.
None of those elements are enough to compensate for the questionable character motivations and the other weaknesses of the lifeless script in which the characters blather on and on about subjects unrelated to the main story, but tell us nothing about what is inside of them.
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