Julia’s Eyes


Written by Chris Price
23 Monday 23rd May 2011

In the way that ‘Luc Besson’ has become cinematic shorthand for ‘henchmen getting thrown out of things and landing awkwardly on other things’, Del Toro still high on Pan's Labyrinth Kool-Aid has become a stylistic signature for the fantastic hidden amongst the mundane and interplay between two worlds. And newcomer Spanish director Guillem Morales (also co-writing with Oriol Paulo) fulfils his role with aplomb in his second directorial full-length, Julia’s Eyes (Los Ojos De Julia), which re-unites the creative team and lead actress from 2007 frightfest The Orphanage.

Casting the striking 40-something Belen Rueda as one half of success metropolitan eurocouple (with Lluis Homar – Bad Education/Broken Embraces), coming to terms with impending hereditary blindness. When she finds her sister swinging from the rafters in the basement of her flat in an apparent suicide, Julia refuses to accept the prognosis of the coroner and sets out to discover what really happened – in a twisting search for the man who seems to have no profile, no agenda and seemingly no face.

Morales skilfully weaves the tale of the loss of a sister and that the severance of a sibling awareness, intercut with an Julia’s increasingly anxious search for a man who existence seems questionable. Her increasing instability is exacerbated by revelations which seek to undermine her trust in those around her. Has she convinced herself of foul play in an effort to gain a foothold as her life is slipping away or is there a genuine monster lurking in the shadows?

Morales depicts a real world draining of colour, kindness and familiarity which slowly melds with a fantastical twilight world of sightlessness reimagining the world around her, aided by a doting hospital aide. Veering from theatrical co-existent fantasy and reality (including a dizzying sequence depicting three blind women waxing lyrical about the suicide unaware of her presence) to a brutal misogynistic euro-nightmare (making time for an agonisingly tense discussion over a cup of tea) Julia’s Eyes is sharp, classically crafted horror thriller, rich with emotion courtesy of outstanding performances from both Rueda and Homar. Aside from some slightly misguided religious connotations, and an overly melodramatic bent towards the end, it’s a superb outing from all, especially well handled by Morales. 

We caught up with director Guillem for ten minutes to talk about his new film.

Can you briefly describe Julia’s Eyes from a director/writer perspective?

Julia’s Eyes is about a woman slowly going blind, who needs to ready herself for the expected. But beyond this, it’s a film about the visible world and the invisible world. Julia needs to prepare herself for this world. Before she goes blind, she wants to witness the most beautiful thing ever and therefore has to witness the horrific thing ever.

There are three things I hope the audience can take away from the film, in this order. The first thing is to offer entertainment; my job is to offer the most entertainment I can in two hours. The second is to make the film moving for the audience – but unfortunately this is not up to me. The third is food for thought.

The fragility of Julia’s everywoman seems very pronounced, constantly putting her in situations the audience can associate with, while reminding us of her weaknesses – was this intended?

Not precisely fragile, but going blind – losing your sight in modern society is full of fear, and more importantly grief. Sometimes losing something is not a bad thing – it’s not about being positive and negative or terrible, it’s a fact of life, and Julia’s attitude is to survive. I spoke to many blind people in preparation for the film, and the fear is in the unknown. The fears for Julia come from here – will the person who loves me still love me if I cannot see them, who will I truly be able to depend on if I cannot see. The fear of the unknown can be overcome – it needs to be seen as just another change in life; it all depends on your attitude.

How do you keep an audience ‘thrilled’?

Anticipation; making a thriller is about dropping information slowly to the audience in a precise manner, and that’s very complex. The actors and the director have all the information and it’s about distributing it, so the audience know what the characters don’t – and this can vary in so many ways. It’s the explanation.

The performances from both are so effortlessly natural, with so much conveyed without being said – was all this scripted from the start?

You have to know two things – how the story starts and ends. Those have always been locked; but the script has to stay alive. I don’t believe in improvisation or adlibbing, so during rehearsals with the actors – a gesture here and there would be adequate to say something, so it was more a question of crossing out lines. As a writer everything goes down on paper. As a director, less is more.

Would that point towards your influences as a director?

Horror is about subtlety to me, about being unsettling. Films like Don’t Look Now (Nicholas Roeg 1973) and The Shining (Stanley Kubrick 1980) are horror - not terror. There is a distinction between the two – terror is the fear of physical injury. Horror is the fear of losing your soul. That’s not one of my lines, but it’s a great phrase!


Julia’s Eyes (Los Ojos De Julia) is in cinemas now.

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