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Close Your Eyes - Preview & US reaction



Preview by: Jack Foley

GORAN Visjnic was hailed as the next George Clooney when he took on a prominent role in ER, but while he has certainly melted hearts in the emergency room, he has yet to make it big in cinemas.

Part of this is down to personal choice, as the actor likes to make use of his spare time with trips to his homeland, as well as smaller ensemble pieces, such as the acclaimed, The Deep End.

His latest excursion on the big screen, an independent gothic horror, is earning similarly impressive reviews from some American critics, and looks set to further his growing reputation as a character actor to watch.

Close Your Eyes features Visjnic as hypnotherapist, Doctor Michael Strother, who has a dangerous gift: he has flashes of visions from his patients' minds.

While trying to help Detective Janet Losey give up smoking, he sees in her mind a young girl floating below the surface of a stream.

Losey is working on a case where a young girl, Heather, has disappeared. When she is found several days later, she has been struck dumb by whatever trauma she has endured. The only clue could lie in the mysterious markings on her arms.

Orthodox police investigation has failed so far, and so Losey enlists Michael's help, hoping that he can coax the girl to speak. The ensuing investigation has wide-reaching implications for both of them, as well as Strother’s family, and unlocks secrets from the past.

The film is produced by Michele Camarda, who found the casting of Visjnic to be an irresistible choice.

"We were looking for an actor with the weight to carry the white knuckle ride that the character undertakes, and we needed someone with international appeal," she explained. "When we met with Goran Visnjic we were immediately struck by him.

"He is a talented actor and known internationally for his role in medical drama ER, which gets big ratings throughout the world. We made the decision to wait for him and film during his hiatus from ER."

Visnjic, himself, describes his character as ‘a talented hypnotist who left America because he committed a professional error of judgement – he convinced a patient he was invincible, not realising that the suggestion was so powerful the guy would ignore his own physical limitations, and kill himself attempting the impossible’.

 

"So he has moved his family to London, where he is working at a much more low key level – helping smokers to give up their addiction. He feels frustrated, but when a policewoman asks him to help with the little girl who has been abducted he is reluctant to help in case he messes up again.

"But as he digs deeper into the girl's mind, he sees things no one else can, and his insomnia returns. His supernatural powers give him flashes of unpleasant insights, and he knows he is the only one who can help."

Visnjic says that people should not dismiss the possibility of supernatural events. He added: "I would be happy to discover evidence of life after death, and I like the idea of reincarnation. It means that we all have a chance to improve ourselves.

"If everyone in the world believed in reincarnation then we would all try harder and the world would be a better place."

US critics were mostly positive about the film when it opened in selected cinemas on April 23, 2004.

Newsday, for example, wrote that ‘it's nowhere near innovative, but it scares you as you rarely get scared in movies these days’.

While Variety referred to it as ‘an enjoyable throwback to the occult psychological horror-thrillers of the late 1970s’.

The New York Post, meanwhile, stated that ‘if you can overlook its TV-episode look, occasional lapses in logic and detours into lurid overkill, this old-school psychological thriller, which marries a tracking-the- serial-killer narrative with occult themes, is a creepy diversion’.

And Film Journal International concluded that ‘it won’t blow anyone away, but it’s a solid popcorn picture, featuring two very watchable leads’.

There were bad reviews, however, with Entertainment Weekly describing it as ‘a cheaply made piece of 'psychological' occult schlock’.

And the New York Daily News opining that it ‘may be the worst-directed movie exported by England in this young century’.

But E! Online noted that ‘it's fun schlock, but it's only schlock, in spite of its indie-film distribution to art-house cinemas’.

And the New York Times concluded: "Hypnosis in the movies has always been synonymous with hocus pocus, and the tradition continues in this flashy, mildly tingly British thriller."

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