Low-tech creepiness highlights Spaniard's films

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Low-tech creepiness highlights Spaniard's films

"I always start writing a comedy and end up writing a thriller," said Alejandro Amenabar, who directed "The Others," a hair-raising thriller that opens here on Friday. He and one of the movie's producers, Park Sunmin, were in Korea this week to promote the Spanish director's first English-language film.

At 29, Amenabar may be a young director, but he has three films to his credit and has established himself as a force in a solid genre, and comedy it is not. His films explore a darkness that brings to mind works by Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock.

Amenabar's first film, "Thesis" (1996), is about two film students in Madrid who find a snuff movie depicting the torture and murder of a young girl. Tension builds when they discover that the girl was a student at their school.

His second film, "Open Your Eyes" (1997), remade as "Vanilla Sky" by Cameron Crowe, is another mind trip that builds to an unexpected climax. A pretty boy is disfigured in a double suicide attempt by his former girlfriend.

"The Others" is another subtle thriller, about a family who moves into a dark and mysterious house. The mother, Grace (Nicole Kidman), always keeps the curtains drawn because her children are sensitive to sunlight.

Amenabar settled his slight frame into a chair, and spoke about horror, paranoia and working with Kidman. He called filmmaking a serious way to discuss serious matters. "It's a vehicle to express my obsessions or paranoia," he said.

His objective is not to show clear-cut images to the audience, but to impel the viewer's imagination to take off. He adroitly creates gloomy atmospheres without any special effects. Compared with "Vanilla Sky," "Open Your Eyes" is quite spare. Likewise, in "The Others," all the scenes take place in the interior of the dark, capacious home, effecting an intimate but eerie setting.

Amenabar's movies creep up on you, and the initially twisted plots are in the end tidily straightened out. But after an Amenabar film you leave with more questions about reality, nightmares, love and the strange powers of the mind.

The very real Amenabar elaborated on his obsessions, saying, "My worst fear is not being here." On working with Kidman, who got a Golden Globe nomination for the role, he said, "Nicole created a character that would be accepted at the end." Kidman became estranged from her husband Tom Cruise after "The Others" finished shooting. Amenabar insisted that he saw no signs of an imminent breakup.

Park, the Korean-American head of the California-based movie production company Maxmedia, had another reason to come to the peninsula: to scout the film scene for potential projects. She didn't name any people or companies, but said that she had met with a couple of Korean companies. Back in the United States, she is working on "Too Pure," a film she wrote and is producing and directing.

Asked why she chose to work with Amenabar, she said, "Stanley Kubrick is dead, who else can I work with?"

by Joe Yong-hee

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