Te Doy Mis Ojos (review) — Uncovering our eyes to hard truths
Take My Eyes (Spanish: Te doy mis ojos, literally I Give You My Eyes) is a 2003 Spanish romantic drama film directed by Icíar Bollaín, starring Laia Marull and Luis Tosar. Critically acclaimed for its unclichéd treatment of domestic violence, it won seven Goya Awards in 2004, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Lead Actor, Best Lead Actress, and Best Supporting Actress.
I am not the biggest fan of heavy or angst movies, mostly because more often than not, I cannot stomach gruesome scenes and painful emotions. To me, watching movies is an escape route from my own world, therefore as”real” as the movie should be made, I would at least hope that it would not make me more painful than necessary. But I can see why Te Doy Mis Ojos must be made like this. Sometimes we cover our eyes even when the truth is right there, from things on a more personal scale like irreversible, broken relationships to social problems like inequality on all sorts of levels, so to pour cold water over the audience’s heads, Icíar Bollaín has chosen to attack the domestic violence issue face to face.
She is not all brute force though — actual violence is rarely shown in the film, but the marks they left, are palpable in the actions of all the protagonists — the mousy twitches and retreats of Pilar, always aware of her surroundings; the protective nature of Ana; even Juan, who is perceptive to all the subtle atmosphere changes.
Yet all this subtlety makes the emotional tension even more pronounced, the complex layers of feelings provoked by a constant threat hanging over Pilar’s head are shown everywhere, making even small matters chilling and horrible to watch. I think no matter the plot is multi-faceted or dedicated to a main story, with the direction Bollaín is going with this one, the main scene would be very much in the front.
To me, I could admit although Antonio is obviously the one with the biggest problem, Pilar’s view is also kind of twisted here. It is very complicated because she must have known she could not stay with the angry Antonio anymore, the Antonio she has always loved is still under there in that body as well, making her confused and not able to distinguish between the two. Plus, it seemed to me that she has been receiving a “victim-bashing” view from the environment around her — it is heavily implied in the film that her mother had also been a victim of gender violence, and her friends, although very supportive of her, also hold some of the gender stereotypes.
This film puts all those various viewpoints in front of us and make us ponder, is it really that simple to immediately identify the threat you have been receiving in your domestic life, especially from your spouse, when there are so many factors influencing your thinking process? Is the victim really to blame when they are not able to speak out, or even admit they have been mistreated? This introspection could also be extended to other issues, such as sexual harassment, sexual abuse, domestic violence and more. When your loved ones are involved or when your conscience curated by the general view of the society has been challenged, it will make everything more complicated, and as the people not directly involved in the issue, it is up to us to recognize all the various pressure the victim is feeling, and try not to make things worse by being too blunt or taking actions too direct (even if we feel like they are right and better for the victim), so as not to cause even more pain on the victim’s account.