My movies are not movies of answers but of questions
Counting 7 titles and starting his career at the age of 19, Amenabar is considered as a promising new-age director. Being also the writer, soundtrack composer and enjoying small roles from time to time, he truly seems multi-talented, yet now raises the question whether or not he keeps his personal style after his premier in Hollywood.
Amenabar made his first steps in film-directing with two short horror films, “Himenoptero”(1992) and “Luna”(1995). His first short film, “Himenoptero” was a 33-minute surprising thriller with the basic idea of snuff films and Amenabar as director, writer, music-composer and actor (he played a silent role, a camera-man). His second short film “Luna” had a mediocre script, with a pretentious, yet indifferent woman-character (played by Nieves Herranz in one of her first and last films), moderate direction and photography. Nevertheless, it did introduce a great Spanish actor Eduardo Noriega (Tesis, Abre los ojos, Plata quemada, Che Guevara).
Just one year after his second short film, Amenabar did not hasitate making his debut in Spanish cinema with his first movie, “Tesis”(Thesis,1996) and was immediately thought to be a promising new director, often compared to Alfred Hitchcock for the pure cruelty of his horror films. The main idea of the film (the concept of enjoying an otherwise horrible spectacle of a snuff film) was also, as mentioned above, the idea of his first short film “Himenoptero”. “Tesis” won several Spanish Academy awards and even reached Berlin Film Festival, preparing the audience for his Spanish blockbuster “Abre los ojos” (Open your eyes, 1997). “Abre los Ojos” did not catch Hollywood’s attention, though clearly impressed Tom Cruise, who starred in the Hollywood remake of the film “Vanilla Sky”, which, missing Amenabar’s direction and having Hollywood’s aesthetics, partially loses the novelty and atmosphere of the original.
Yet, “Vanilla Sky” opened Hollywood doors for Amenabar who literally scored with his English-debut horror film “The others” (2001), receiving only good critiques worldwide. The spine-tingling chills, produced by the dark, foggy atmosphere created by Amenabar’s direction, the mysterious soundtrack, also composed by him, the outstanding performance of N.Kidman as a 1940’s semi-lunatic mother of two light-allergic kids, and most-of-all the unexpected end were more than enough to characterize the film as remarkable.
Considered to be at the top of his career Amenabar went back to Spanish films with “Mar adentro” (Sea within,2004), staring Javier Bardem as the true-life character of Ramon Sapedro, a quadriplegic who fought for 30 years to win his right to end his life the way he wanted. The film shocked, and divided the critics, who either thought it was extremely true and sentimental, or just extravagant, with the sole intention of provoking the audience. The truth is J.Bardem was great in his role, Amenabar did a good job in the atmospheric scenes, especially the one with Ramon “flying” over the sea, and the soundtrack was well-chosen.
After all that success, Amenabar decided to try for second time an English-language film, directing “Agora” (2009), which with its Spanish director, British actors, Hollywood-standard production, set in Roman Alexandria of 391AD, criticizing the crimes and destructions in the name of Christianity was promising to be really provocative and extra-ordinary, but, surprisingly enough, can be immediately forgotten after each screening and does raise the question ‘where is Amenabar?’. Rumor has it, he faces the results of his last-film’s failure, yet, he is just 30 years old. Maybe we have to be more optimistic when criticizing a promising talent and expect a stunning come-back from him in the future.