That the film opens with shots of the roman god Janus (god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames and endings) is telling as all that features in Victor Erice’s first film for 30 years.

This film opens in Paris 1947 where Mr Levy (Josep Maria Pou) contracts struggling journalist played by Julio Arenas (Jose Coronado) to find his lost daughter who is in Singapore. If he’s successful he can help him rebuild his life.

That fades and the film moves to Madrid 2012 where long retired film director Miguel Garay (Manolo Solo) is being interviewed for a programme called Unresolved Cases which investigates cold cases. It features the sequence of the film that open’s this movie though the real discussion point is the disappearance of Arenas during filming and hasn’t been heard of since. This caused the film to be abandoned, effectively halting Garay’s career.

The interview goes reasonably well, though key people such as Arena’s daughter Ana (Ana Torrent) refuses to be interviewed. But Garay does manage to get through to her, and others from his past.

After that the investigation such as it is peters out after a few more reacquaintances and Garay returns home. There he receives a call from nursing home who says she knows where Arenas is though he’s lost his memory and answers to ‘Gardel’.

The film now takes a different direction away from the partial mystery of the missing man as to who is Gardel. If he is Arenas what does he remember, does he want to, should life be just left to go on? These are people who are well into the later stages of their lives, what good is dredging up the past.

Profound questions that are posed by Erice from a screenplay co-written with Michel Gaztambide which are mulled over, in lengthy scenes between Garay and characters from his past, and present. These at least develop a fuller understanding of Arenas/Gardel and Garay.

These are carefully layered with just the right amount of information provided to keep the slight intrigue going. As over the course of the film it becomes a character study and meditation on life, past and future.

Its beautifully directed if very slow and long. It is at times an effort and while the actors can’t be faulted as they are superb, Erice does let them ramble on and indulge in purple prose.

How far this goes as an homage to cinema with the sequences of the abandoned film, the contrived shots and images, (the chiaroscuro at the end) and long scenes of dialogue, is up for discussion.

There’s also a semi-fantastical air about the film that doesn’t disengage the viewer but doesn’t help create the empathy that the characters require.

For all the longing of lost friends and family discussing issues that should engage the viewer on an emotional level, the film struggles to do that. The feeling is that this is consciously a very technical, tightly controlled production that maybe needed more of a human heartbeat than a metronomic rhythm.

Open Your Eyes opens in UK cinemas on 12 April 2024.