Close My Eyes

(Stephen Poliakoff, UK, 1991)


Close My Eyes sits very comfortably within a particular style of contemporary British cinema: stark, angular architecture; hushed, pregnant atmosphere; short, sudden scenes spanning many years of story time.

More particularly, like in the films of David Hare (Paris By Night, 1988), it counterpoints a coldly erotic tale of illicit passion with the momentous social changes swamping grey old England.

Incest between brother and sister is a largely taboo subject, rarely treated in films. We watch in horrified fascination as Natalie (Saskia Reeves) and Richard (Clive Owen) enter into this forbidden relation as if nothing unusual is actually going on.

Deceit and alienation rule in writer-director Stephen Poliakoff’s gloomy psychological portrait. Matters only get grimmer once Natalie’s wealthy, jaded husband (Alan Rickman) starts to suspect the truth.

It is hard to intuit what Poliakoff meant Close My Eyes to be about. The characters are ciphers, insects in a glittering, glass case, on show only for their symbolic value.

But when the film tries to deal concretely with the larger forces of society and history – the story is full of references to AIDS and urban development – it collapses into doleful banality.

MORE Poliakoff: Century

MORE brother-daughter incest: A Man and Two Women

© Adrian Martin December 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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