Open Windows, the new film from Timecrimes director Nacho Vigalondo is a groundbreaking and hypnotic journey through the nightmares of modern technology.
The film tells the twisted tale of Nick (Elijah Wood), a young geek with a fan blog who gets pulled deep into a convoluted plot by a mysterious voice on the other end of the internet. His website is a classy fan site for big time star Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey), who is attending a press conference for her newest sci-fi big budget adventure film. Nick has been contacted by her representatives and been told that he has won a dinner date with the young lady, which he learns she has abruptly cancelled. The voice on the other end of the line is “Chord”, who initially claims to be one of the producers working with the starlet, but leads Nick down a rabbit hole of strange and uncomfortable twists and turns. Before Nick knows it, he (and the audience) is sucked right into this strange sequence of events, and the pace is so frantic we never even have the chance to question what is going on.
While the concept can be considered to be a modern day take on Hitchcock’s Rear Window, the real gimmick here is that everything you see in the film is via a computer screen, so Nick’s laptop is of key importance. The screens and windows dance in and out of our focus, and really help the voyeuristic tone of the film, making the audience complicit with the progressively more nerve-wracking events. Chord quickly reveals himself to be more enigmatic than we thought, as he orchestrates a convoluted series of events that involve torture, kidnapping and virtual extortion. Touching on a timely theme of young starlets being exploited by media outlets, this ambitious film has a lot to say, and in an entirely new format.
According to the director, “Some years ago my producers asked me to come up with a movie in which social networks and the language of the Internet would feature heavily. I made a counter-proposal: taking the concept to its limit by writing a film that took place entirely on the desktop of a computer, pushing the envelope of the production to make it a really unique adventure.”
Elijah Wood is great in his part as the puppet being dragged along by the strings of a sinister maniac, and I love seeing the little hobbit take on strange roles like this at this time in his career. Nick is a sympathetic stalker, being forced into an uncomfortable situation by a much more nefarious puppeteer, but he tellingly doesn’t wrestle too hard with his conscience when he gets a chance to peek at the holy grail. When the stakes become considerably higher, however, he rises to the occasion to become her hero and joins forces with some amusing French hackers to save the day. Sort of…
Nothing in this film is what it appears to be, and while the breakneck pace of the first two thirds drags the audience along for the ride, the final act kind of stops the film dead in its tracks. Some questionable technology combined with new characters (and one easily forgettable but vitally important one from the beginning) turn the climactic scenes into a jumbled, confusing mess.
The first time I watched it I found myself asking What the FUCK just happened?
Upon a second viewing, things became a little clearer toward the end, but I think it is safe to say that the director used a few cheats to get to the desired conclusion. As with Timecrimes, the science of the sci-fi is clearly not as important to the director as the fiction, but I just didn’t feel that it worked as well here. Overall, Open Windows is a fun and unique experience in a whole new style of film-making, and will not be easy to forget despite the somewhat unsatisfying wrap-up. The film is currently available On Demand, and will also start a limited theatrical run today November 7th, although to be honest I think watching this one on a laptop or mobile device makes the whole package more satisfying.