Year: 2003
USA: New Yorker Films
UK: Swipe Films
Cast: Laia Marull, Luis Tosar, Candela Pena, Rosa Maria Sarda, Kiti Manver, Sergi Calleja, Nicolas Fernandez Luna, David Mooney, Elisabet Gelabert, Elena Irureta, Chus Gutierrez
Director: Iciar Bollain
Country: Spain
Language: Spanish (English subtitles)
USA: 106 mins
UK: 107 mins
UK Certificate: 15 contains strong domestic violence and strong language
USA Release Date: 17 March 2006 (Limited Release - New York)
UK Release Date: 3 December 2004 (Limited Release - wider)
UK Release Date: 19 November 2004 (Limited Release)
(in Spanish)


TAKE MY EYES begins with the edge-of-your-seat paranoia of a noir thriller, as a terrified Pilar (Laia Marull) hastily packs a small bag in the middle of the night, grabs her sleeping young son out of his bed, and flees across town as if her life depends on it. It isn't clear what or who Pilar is running from until she reaches the sanctuary of her sister's house (Candela Pena as Ana). As Pilar breaks down and Ana begins to grasp her sister's turmoil, the source of Pilar's fear has caught up with her. Banging on Ana's front door is Pilar's husband, Antonio (Luis Tosar), who in a fit of rage begins screaming for Pilar to return home with him.

But Pilar holds tight. With Ana's support, Pilar is determined to save herself from Antonio's unprovoked rage. Quickly settled into Ana's spare bedroom, Pilar sets off to find work, which leads her to a new career as museum guide and, in time, a greater sense of self. Yet the very passionate Antonio is far from a one-dimensional brute, and the bond between Pilar and Antonio is deep, inextricably tangling love, eroticism, and submissiveness (epitomized by Pilar's lovemaking litany "Take my arms . . .my legs . . .my eyes."). Their relationship has always been a potent mix of love and danger, but when Antonio begins to attend therapy sessions, he's eventually able to convince Pilar that he's changing and that the abuse will stop. Deeply in love, Pilar is persuaded to return to him.

The film generates tremendous empathy and suspense as the couple struggles to rebuild their relationship, but there are no simple answers in this piercing multifaceted work that goes far beyond movie-of-the-week topicality. Take My Eyes tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence, but like Days of Wine and Roses and Drugstore Cowboy, it broadens (and never dilutes) its cautionary tale with humor, lyricism, and a shattered love story. Sweeping all major categories in the Goya Awards, Iciar Bollain's third feature vaults the actress-turned-director into the top rank of contemporary Spanish filmmakers.

Comments by the director: Iciar Bollain

"After Flores de otro mundo (Flowers from another world) (1999), I wanted to make a denser film with fewer characters, which perhaps meant it would be starker and more intense. And for some time, Alicia Luna, coscreenplay writer, and I had been thinking about spouse abuse. We found that, although this subject is constantly in the media, we had lots of unanswered questions.

Why does a woman stay for an average of ten years with a man who beats her? Why doesn't she leave? And not only that, why do some women even insist that they are still in love? Being financially dependent is not enough of a reason to explain the fact that one out of every four women in Europe and the United States has experienced a violent relationship in her life. In the course of our research, we learned that one of the main reasons they stayed was because they kept hoping the man would change. That is why our main character is a woman who keeps hoping every day that the man she originally fell in love with will walk in through the door... But who is that man? Why is there almost no standard profile for a wife-beater? And, for years, why do those men abuse the very person they claim to love with all their hearts?

There are men who are physically violent. Others are also psychologically violent and are probably the ones who do the most damage. Some are genuinely cruel, while others are also victims themselves, who only know how to solve conflicts by using violence, who need to keep tight control over the person they love, who are very afraid... and that is what the man in our film is like. Someone who has the chance to see himself for what he is, and change.

TAKE MY EYES aka TE DOY MIS OJOS is Pilar and Antonio's story, but it is also about the people around them: a mother who condones the situation, a sister who does not understand, and a son who sees all but says nothing. The city of Toledo, with its artistic splendor and historical and religious importance, adds yet another dimension to this story about love, fear, control, and power.