Te doy mis ojos

I give you my eyes (2003)
   In 2003, open debate on domestic violence was still relatively muted in Spain. In the past, the idea had been that progress and women's education would eventually make this deeply rooted problem disappear as Spain became a less traditional society. However, after almost 30 years of systematic efforts and support mechanisms, statistics suggested the issue only seemed to be getting worse. Indeed, public awareness of this specifically feminine problem was low: even as late as 1996, judges could claim that the defendants in cases of sexual harassment were actually provoking their assailants. Icíar Bollaín's Te doy mis ojos became an effective vehicle to bring private suffering into the open and to suggest that legislation was not enough to stop a problem based in economics, education, images, history, and even emotional mythologies that most people would not find easy to let go.
   The film tells the story of Pilar (Laia Marull), a balanced, intelligent woman, who lives in fear of her husband Antonio's bursts of violence. At the start, she leaves her home in the middle of the night with her son to move in with her sister Ana (Candela Peña). She is terrified. We know something has happened, but not seeing it only increases our perception of the horror this woman can be feeling. Her sister, who is in a more relaxed relationship, asks her to repudiate Antonio (Luis Tosar) and never go back. Pilar has to rebuild her life by finding a job and new friends, but her husband continually says he will change and claims his life makes no sense without her. Gradually, she is won over and comes back. Shortly after, the inevitable happens and, in a searing, uncomfortable to watch sequence, Antonio violently humiliates Pilar just as she is leaving the house for a job interview. At the end of the film, she decides to finally put the issue in the hands of the legal system.
   Te doy mis ojos works both in terms of melodrama and as a contribution to social debate. The acting is superb. Marull's performance communicates the contradictory feelings of this woman who is deeply in love with the man who beats her and cannot bring herself to escape. Her strength seems to be in resisting hell. Her features register every hesitation, every pang when she feels her husband is about to show his violent side. Luis Tosar is threatening and seductive, a confused child who is nevertheless dangerous. It is in those two performances where the film's depth lies: audiences understand these people, the web of contradictions they inhabit, but also are aware that Pilar must leave a situation that is not just holding her back but that may eventually kill her.
   As a discussion film, the different positions are all simply and clearly delineated. Bollaín spoke to victims of domestic violence and also tried to represent their partners' mentalities: men trapped in chauvinist ideologies, whose emotions are blocked and who need reeducating. Antonio goes to support groups for help, but the lack of communication is evident: the psychologist can help him verbalize his problem, but his outbursts are provoked by emotions that are beyond words. Pilar's mother (Rosa Maria Sardá) represents traditional female identity in Spain: not only does she encourage her daughter to go back to her husband, she seems to have identified with the image of sufferer of a violent husband. Finally, Ana represents a new womanhood that chooses her partner more wisely (in this case an adorable Scottish man who cooks, plays guitar, and is supportive of her) and who has escaped the pressures of Spanish traditional gender stereotypes by living abroad. Still, her position is also problematic. At one point, she is accused by Pilar of turning her back on reality. The solutions the film suggests are never easy: women have to go against their feelings or betray their roots and go away to escape the hell created by stifling versions of gender roles.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

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