If “When I Close My Eyes” is a precursor of things to come, then expect to see some exciting new talent emerging from the newly constituted Slovenian Republic. This psychological thriller, the first indie production to emerge from the nation, is a resourcefully made, emotionally gripping and unnerving entertainment that will translate effortlessly to other cultures. With effective marketing it has reel playability internationally and potential crossover appeal in sophisticated situations.
Filmmaker Franci Slak has deftly woven the conventions of genre into the evolving social contract of his nation and fashioned a haunting scenario. Story centers on Ana (Petra Govc), a young post office worker. As luck would have it, the day she substitutes at a rural depot, a man on motorcycle arrives and robs the station.
However, internal and police response to the incident would suggest something far from routine was involved. The investigating officer questions her in an icily cynical way that implies she is a prime suspect. Her supervisor also tosses out a cloud of suspicion and culpability.
The climate is rife with paranoia. We learn that Ana has been imbued with guilt since she was a child and discovered her father hanging from a tree in a ritual, political murder. In her state of mind anything is possible — even her unwitting complicity in the robbery.
Slak, who co-wrote the script with Silvan Furlan, devises a structure that provides the illusion of a logical progression. It is fiendishly clever in doling out choice tidbits to guide the viewer down the wrong primrose path. Virtually nothing proves to be what it seems.
Of particular note is the high technical sheen of the production. Sven Pepeonik’s super 16mm camera work is a handsome, eerie complement to the off-center storyline. Score by Mitja Vrhovnik-Smrekar is evocative and stylized, suggesting the subtle flourish of a young Ennio Morricone.
“When I Close My Eyes” is a thoroughgoing deception of the highest order. Slak accomplishes a rare feat of sleight of hand where the enjoyment is derived from being totally bamboozled by a master cinemagician.