With his third movie Open Windows writer and director Nacho Vigalondo has attempted an audacious remodeling of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window for the social media generation. That he largely succeeds is in part down to his highly imaginative and visually arresting telling of his tale—all told via a laptop screen and a host of various pop-up windows—and a strong performance by Elijah Wood’s as geeky blogger Nick Chambers who finds his life hacked by the sick plans of a psycho troll from Hell.
This is not the first time Rear Window has received a generational make-over: Brian De Palma made his beautifully crafted homage Body Double in the 1980s, while more recently D. J. Caruso successfully updated the format with Disturbia in 2007. Now Spanish-born director Vigalondo has devised a clever way to bring Hitchcock’s concept bang up-to-date with Open Windows. His story follows a young blogger (Wood) who runs the fansite for actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). He soon finds out that he is part of a fake blog and the tool by which hacker-cum-stalker Chord (Neil Maskell) wants to have revenge on the actress.
Elijah Wood as Nick Chambers unwittingly(?) watching his fate unfold.
Ignacio “Nacho” Vigalondo was born in “a small town in the middle of Spain” in 1977. As a child he wrote stories and created his own comic books, but being raised in a poor family Nacho never considered the possibility of becoming a filmmaker until the mid 1990s when he was inspired by the low budget movies by directors such as Jim Jarmusch, John Waters (particularly Pink Flamingoes), Kevin Smith, and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. This eventually led to Vigalondo making his own films, in particular his Oscar-nominated short 7:35 de la Mañana (7.30 in the Morning). He then wrote and directed his first movie Los Cronocrímenes (Timecrimes in 2007, which he also acted in, and Extraterrestre (Extraterrestrial) in 2011. Both films played with audience expectations and used interesting plot devices, which Nacho has developed with Open Windows.
Nacho being interviewed online about ‘Open Windows.’
In an exclusive interview with Dangerous Minds Nacho Vigalondo discussed his Internet thriller Open Windows (how else? but) via Skype, where he started off by explaining his inspiration for the film.
Nacho Vigalondo: When I started writing the script I was given a good suggestion from my producers—they wanted me to make a movie that was intimate yet had a large presense on the screen, like in the film Closer by Mike Nichols. They wanted to rethink and remake Rear Window for today. Taking that advice to the limit, I offered them a device for making a movie that all happens on a computer screen all the time. So, they had this interesting suggestion and I gave them back this insane approach.
‘Open Windows’ vengeful game of cat and mouse is told via a laptop screen.
‘Open Windows’ must have been difficult to film, as you have multiple frames of different action all interacting with each other at the same time. How did you manage this?
Nacho Vigalondo: The key was the script and then making a really detailed pre-production work. Basically we made a whole film like it was a Pixar movie. We made a whole presentation of the whole movie as we wanted to be really sure about the things we needed in front of the camera for every shot, for every scene. Not only the action inside the windows but also everything that was happening over the whole desktop. The key for us was to have everything preprepared and leaving nothing to improvisation. I love improvisation but in this case it was impossible, for every window is connected with the other ones. So, it was really mathematical in a sense and all about logistics.
Your film develops at a relentless pace, shifting and changing as it progresses, why is this?
Nacho Vigalondo: I didn’t want the movie to rest on the format. I wanted the movie to be crazy and surprising. That’s the reason every twenty minutes the movie changes its whole nature and becomes something else. That’s the reason the movie approaches science-fiction at the end, that’s the reason the movie becomes another genre in the third part. I wanted the movie to evolve all the time. I didn’t want to make a movie that just rests on what happens, I wanted it to be ambitious.
As you say, the film is a genre-bender, do you think this should be a prerequisite for directors when making movies?
Nacho Vigalondo: Every movie demands something different from you, and since you are in love with the movies you want to make, you have to accept what the movie asks you to do. For example, my previous movie Extraterrestrial was a sci-fi film that turns into a comedy. In this case, Open Windows seems to be a psycho-thriller with erotic elements but the third act turns into a totally different genre. That is something I have to confess, the inspiration for the last hour of the movie is more literary than cinematic, because I love reading novels from the end of the 19th century-beginning of the twentieth century—novels by Conan Doyle, Gaston Leroux The Mystery of the Yellow Room—all those novels in which the characters have fake identities and they are playing with the other characters, and you also have the super heroes at that time. In those novels everything was in the transformation of identity—you can see that in the Fantômas films—for me that stuff, that lack of identity or using identity as a tool makes perfect sense in the social media environment.
Initially when I started writing the script, I didn’t know the movie was about fake identities, but at the end of the movie, the story took me to that place.
Sasha Grey as Jill Goddard finds she has some unwanted admirers in ‘Open Windows.’
‘Open Windows’ raises questions about the ethics of the Internet, do you think the Internet is a force for good or bad?
Nacho Vigalondo: The Internet is not something apart from us, it is not something that turns us into something different. The Internet is us. I don’t want to think of the Internet as something separate from us that is turning us into something different.
I think the Internet is like a speaker—it is one of us and we have the chance to speak out loud and we all can be heard. For example feminism is rightly more visible than ever before, yet at the same time misogyny is also more visible than ever.
But at the end of the day the Internet is all about us.
Though ‘Open Windows’ has received some negative reviews (mainly for the film’s shift in the third act), this reviewer found Nacho Vigalondo’s film a thrilling, highly inventive and enjoyable romp, which raised a few interesting questions about our relationship with the Internet from voyeurism, stalking and misogyny—though these are not always resolved. The acting may be iffy in places, but Elijah Wood shines and manages to keep the whole film together, which is some feat considering he was acting to camera throughout. The film also stars former porn actress Sasha Grey as the focus of Wood’s attention Jennifer Goddard and Neil Maskell, who previously starred in Ben Wheatley’s ‘Kill List,’ as the villainous Chord.