Customer Reviews: Open My Heart
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3.1 out of 5 stars
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on July 24, 2005
The Italian film "Open My Heart" is a provocative, dark and deeply disturbing domestic drama, fraught with bizarre interpersonal relationships and riddled with sexual tension. This is not an easy film for the sensitive or undiscriminating viewer to handle - what with its graphic sex scenes, depictions of lesbian incest and half a dozen or so harrowing murders as part of its overall package. But neither is it a film for the prurient or for those in search of tawdry titillation to get excited about - for "Open My Heart" is more concerned with subtleties of character and evocation of mood than it is with cheap thrills and fleshly exploitation.

The film, written and directed by Giada Colagrande (who also plays Caterina), focuses on two sisters living together after the death of their mother fifteen years earlier. The older of the two, Maria, has taken to prostitution as a means of supporting the both of them, bringing her customers home in the daytime to the same bed that she and her sister share at night. The younger sister, Caterina, is a shy 17-year old virgin who has been made a virtual prisoner in the apartment in which they live, being allowed to venture out only to take dancing lessons several times a week (even her schooling is done at home). Caterina accepts her fate good-naturedly and almost gratefully, even though she is forced to watch and listen - with an attitude of growing resentment and envy - as a steady stream of men flows in and out of the bedroom to make love to her sister.

Maria wields a tremendous amount of power in her relationship with Caterina, essentially isolating the youngster from any meaningful contact with the outside world. Is this done out of a perverted sense of love and duty, a desire to protect her sister from the problems of life on the outside? Or is it a product of her own innate need to subjugate and dominate a weaker individual who never complains about her treatment and who seemingly loves Maria unconditionally? Colagrande never spells out the answers for us explicitly, but we do see the way in which Maria manipulates Caterina to her own advantage, going so far as to make her her lover despite their being siblings. But even Maria can have only so much control over another person and, eventually, Caterina's growing desire for men begins to manifest itself. When Caterina becomes attracted to one of Maria's customers - a middle-aged custodian at the dance school Caterina attends - the man gets pulled into a bizarre sexual triangle that begins Maria's descent into premeditated violence and murder.

One of the gravest injustices one could perform against this film would be to relate too much of the plot beforehand, for much of the power of the film lies in seeing where the filmmakers will take us in terms of the storyline. The movie begins slowly with Colagrande intentionally leaving out vital pieces of information that she then reveals in her own due time. This intentional ambiguity serves to pull us deeper into the drama once the details begin to fall into place. What's amazing is that, even with all these sensational elements embedded in the plot, the film always remains low-keyed and detached in tone and mood. Much of the time is taken up with people sitting or standing around NOT saying much of anything to one another but conveying meaning through their gestures, their subtle actions and the silences that say more than their words ever could. Even the "violence" at the end is muted and understated to the point where it doesn't disturb the placid surface of these characters' lives.

Colagrande has created a world that is just bizarre and off-kilter enough to throw the viewer off balance and make us question what is right and what is wrong for the duration of the film. She shows how easily sex can be converted into a weapon in a power struggle between two individuals, especially when one of the parties is dominant by nature and the other submissive. She also exploits that age-old fetish that views death as the ultimate orgasm, as Maria and Caterina finally descend into a macabre game of perversion, trickery and murder that puts one in mind of the female praying mantis or black widow spider.

As the people caught in the bizarre love triangle, Colagrande, Natalie Cristiani and Claudio Botosso give restrained, effective performances. Colagrande chose to shoot the film with a digital camera, giving the picture the slightly seedy, pseudo-amateurish look that this highly personal, intensely intimate material calls for.

"Open My Heart" is not for those who are easily offended by explicit sex and suggestive violence, but those who appreciate movies that push the envelope and show us aspects of life we may not have seen before will find this a rewarding experience.
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'Aprimi il cuore' (Open My Heart) is a unique film, one that tells a story of incest, prostitution, and murder in a singularly obtuse family. The genius of this piece is the writer, director and actress Giada Colagrande who has at a young age (she is not yet thirty as of this writing) found a voice in Italian cinema that demands attention. She is a major talent! Colagrande's 2003 film is a triumph.

Two sisters live alone in an apartment: Maria (Natalie Cristiani) is the older and has earned their support as a prostitute since their mother's death 15 years ago, and Caterina (Giada Colagrande) is 17 years old, a virgin confined to the apartment by her older sister with the sole exception of dancing lessons few times a week. Caterina is home taught, reads Dante, John Donne, and the major scientists, all under the guidance of Maria. While Maria brings her clients to the apartment during the day (Caterina must listen to the squeaking bedsprings in the bedroom she shares with Maria at night) and at night Maria hits the streets while Caterina practices her dancing and studies at home. The odd factor is the fact the Maria and Caterina have a strong sexual relationship and when Maria finishes a day's work, Caterina bathes her and they share bed and body in a lesbian relationship.

At Maria's dancing school there is a kind, older janitor Giovanni (Claudio Botosso) who pays attention to the plain Caterina and awakens her sexual feelings. Giovanni 'visits' Maria at their apartment and upon his departure Caterina dresses in a negligee and dances as though before Herod! Giovanni responds and at a later time Maria notices Caterina's inquisitiveness and invites her into the bedroom where she supervises Caterina's loss of virginity with Giovanni.

The floodgate has opened and Caterina soon is hosting Giovanni in a passionate sexual relationship. When Maria discovers the 'intruder' into their private life, she begins a series of deeds that defy sharing in a review. But it should be said that Maria's resolutions result in a return of the sister's relationship, a state that Caterina finalizes in ways learned from her tutor sister.

The acting is superb with special kudos to Colagrande's dancing as well as acting. This is a minimalist script, the camera revealing more about the silences than words ever could. The sexual scenes are graphic but provide the needed impact for the story's conclusion. This may not be a film for the casual viewer, but for those who love the edgy, tough, raw films from the Indies, this is bound to become a classic. Grady Harp, August 05
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on February 5, 2007
The other reviews listed here are very extensive and cover the film material very well. It's one of those "you only need to watch it once" kind of movies. A lot like 'Sister, My Sister', very disturbing. It's so low keyed and without emotion that you may find yourself feeling impatient and annoyed. I did, until I simply let myself witness the dynamic between the sisters, and let it evolve toward whatever "bad" ending for them that there would likely be. It portrayed a realistic existence, a modest life of routine and dominence by the older sister over the younger sister; the younger sister was kept to serve the older sisters emotional needs and actual physical passion needs. It seemed a little short on a substantial plot, rather it just sort of meandered aimlessly along, hopping from event to event, the women behaving like zombies. If there had been some kind of passion (jealousy, anger, resentment, lust, control, dominance), some kind of emotional display of some sort, this may have been a much more intriguing film. What ended up happening at the end ultimately was quite amazing and dramatic, and even more disturbing. It made up for the flat progress in the earlier part of the movie. Odd combination: prostitution and lesbian incest in a subdued format. Worth a watch if you are open to controversial and "avant-garde" type of stories, and don't expect fireworks.
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on January 29, 2008
Talk about inane. It looks like it is the first time they have held a camera. Too many dumb mistakes to count (not subtle things like a microphone in frame for a sec. Instead you will see part of a film light and an extension cord for like 3 minutes. And it's not done intentionally, either). The story is obvious, the dialogue is hokey, the symbolism is obvious and trite, and once you get past the fact that there is incest going on, the whole thing is sort of inane. If you think that one shocking premise will keep you entertained for the whole film, enjoy. Otherwise get something with more substance.
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on July 10, 2009
I find" open your heart" a very interesting movie. It is about two sisters whom, after their mother dies, the older sister moves in. Consequently, the greif of their of their mother draws them into a sexual relationship which gets deadly when the younger one falls for a man almost twice her age.
It is a movie about all the incidents we as a society would consider taboo. Older guy in love with teenager; Both sisters in an incestrous relationship and murder. Moreover, the movie is sexually explicit and I would consider it not for the prudish.
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on December 12, 2007
This is a sick, boring, and vile film. It's not erotic, and it is shot in someones apartment in Italy. Don't waste your time.
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on June 12, 2016
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