Finding the Story Inside

"I understand that Hollywood is a kind of mecca for many directors, but I don't even have an agent in the United States," he says on the phone from his home in Spain. "What pushes me are the stories I want to tell, not really making the trip to Hollywood."

What's most surprising about "The Sea Inside", though, is how stunningly different it is from "The Others"—as well as from Amenábar's earlier films, including the mind-bending thriller "Open Your Eyes," starring Penelope Cruz (and later remade in English as "Vanilla Sky," starring Cruz and Cruise), and his disturbing first feature, "Thesis," about a film student who stumbles upon what seems to be a snuff film. [...] In fact, each of Amenábar's films is so visually and tonally different, it's hard to believe that the same person directed them all.

His work draws more comparisons to the latter two. Like Hitchcock, Amenábar has a gift for generating suspense; like Kubrick, he often uses space and architecture to emphasize the isolation of his characters. But in some ways he trumps them, too: Amenábar, who started playing the piano at 10, composes the musical scores for all of his movies.

Come February, it's likely that he and legendary Spanish director Pedro Almodovar will both be sitting in the Kodak Theatre on Oscar night. But unlike most other foreign filmmakers, Amenábar—like Almodovar—shows no desire to immigrate to the United States.

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