Judge Gordon Sullivan doesn't think an Open Window will be inviting for most.
She may never escape the fear…
Films which deal with rape have a difficult time dealing with the more subtle aspects of the situation. Most people are familiar with at least one of the vast array of rape-revenge films like Death Wish, I Spit on Your Grave, or the more recent The Brave One. However, I suspect that moviegoers are much less familiar with films that treat the quiet devastation of those who have suffered from rape. They're less familiar, I suspect, because such films rarely get made. Treating the difficulties associated with coping with a situation like rape is difficult at best, because there is no revenge to rally around, and the subject of the film is likely to spend much of the narrative withdrawn, bewildered, and hurt. None of this makes for compelling cinema except in the best of hands. Finally, treating the true aftermath of rape (not the vengeance-fueled fantasy we're usually fed) is a total bummer. There are no clear paths to recovery, no simple answer as to why, and very little (if any) justice in the end. Despite all these hurdles, the debut film for director Mia Goldman deftly deals with all of these issues as she presents the semi-autobiographical story of her own rape and recovery. It's not a pretty picture by any stretch, but it does boast some fine performances and a sensitive portrayal of the aftermath of a traumatic event.
Facts of the Case
Izzy (Robin Tunney, Prison Break) is a budding photographer dreaming of her own exhibit. She is recently engaged to budding academic Peter (Joel Edgerton, King Arther), and as an engagement present, Peter cleans out their old shed for use as Izzy's photography studio. One night while Peter is away, Izzy sorts photos in the studio, but leaves a window open. A man comes through the window and rapes Izzy. She is devastated by the experience and begins to withdraw, wracked by feelings of guilt (because she feels responsible for leaving the door open) and anger toward an ugly world. Her relationship with Peter disintegrates, as do her interactions with her controlling mother (Cybill Shepherd, Moonlighting). With the help of therapy and art, there is hope that Izzy can come back from her traumatic experiences and live a happy life.
The main thing that Open Window has going for it are a whole host of excellent performances. Robin Tunney is simply staggering as Izzy. Despite her pain and withdrawn state, she still manages to radiate energy and maintain sympathy even as she's obviously emotionally disconnected with everyone around her. Joel Edgerton is equally impressive as Peter. He has the act out the pain and confusion that comes with being close to someone in Izzy's situation. Although his pain can't be compared to Izzy's, he too loses something when she withdraws, and he does an amazing job of remaining sympathetic while also showing that he doesn't have an infinite amount of patient for Izzy's difficulties. In many ways it's a thankless role, and he rises to the task. Michaela Conlin has a small role as Izzy's best friend, and despite the size of the role, she radiates warmth and understanding. That same warmth and understanding are something totally lacking from Cybill Shepherd's portrayal of Izzy's mother. She's almost over the top, but her characterization has an emotional weight that's undeniable.
There's also a certain reality to the events of the film—I suspect because of Goldman's experiences—that many films lack. Very little of it feels like artifice; there doesn't seem to be a single contrived moment, a single unearned bit of emotional payoff, or a single bit of preaching, something which many films that deal with emotionally weighty subjects feel compelled to provide. The flashbacks (which depict the rape) are especially affecting, and they seem to have been timed for maximum impact on the viewer while maintaining a certain psychological and narrative logic. Open Windows is not a fun film, but it is a powerful one.
As befits so powerful a film, Image Entertainment has given Open Window a simple and powerful DVD release. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is fine, if a little flat (this isn't a film that one would expect to "pop" anyway). There are no serious problems with noise, grain, or compression. The audio does an excellent job balancing the dialogue with the score, although directionality isn't used much. For extras there is a commentary and several featurettes. The commentary includes Mia Goldman, producers Thomas Barad and Midge Sanford, cinematographer Denis Malone, and editor Heather Persons, all of whom provide information on the film's genesis and production. "Inside Open Window" is a typical EPK-style making-of that covers the film's productions. "Director's Story: Her Survival from Sexual Assault" is an interview with Mia Goldman in which she describes the events that provided the impetus for this film's story. The interview is a fascinating but difficult watch. The disc rounds out with the film's trailer and an PSA by Cybil Shepherd for RAINN (the Rape, Incest, & Abuse National Network).
The Rebuttal Witnesses
There's no doubt that Open Window is a powerful film, but it certainly isn't for everyone. The film's unflinching portrayal of rape and its aftermath is effective, but very difficult to watch. This is certainly not the kind of film that can be recommended for casual rental, as the experience of watching the film is likely to leave the viewer drained.
I can't (and won't) pretend to know anything about the effects of rape, but Open Window is a powerful film that I suspect will be appropriate for survivors, counselors, and anyone else coming to grips with this kind of traumatic event. For the average moviegoer, it's a hard film to recommend precisely because it pulls no punches in providing a glimpse into the devastation that rape can cause for a person. For those who want to see it, Image Entertainment has done an excellent technical job bringing the film to home viewers.
Despite the difficulties Open Window presents to the viewer, it acquits itself with the subtle cinematic depiction of the undertreated consequences of rape.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
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