The brain is a great mystery. It plays tricks with our consciousness making us believe things that aren’t real. Or sometimes, they are real, and it makes us think that they are not. The very thin line between reality and hallucination is the foundation of Netflix’s Polish Science Fiction thriller, Open Your Eyes (Otwórz oczy in Polish).
Open Your Eyes Television Series is based on the novel “Druga szansa” written by Katarzyna Berenika Miszczuk. Narrated in 6 episodes of 40 minutes each, the series is directed by Anna Jadowska and Adrian Panek.
Before jumping onto the scrutiny, there is something peculiar about this Polish series that needs to be underlined. Cinephiles may be aware of the Cinematic Classic, The Matrix, directed by the Wachowskis. In the science fiction film, Neo (Keanu Reeves) finds himself in a simulated reality. In short, Open Your Eyes uncannily resembles “The Matrix” in that department.
‘Open Your Eyes’ Plot Summary
A 17-year-old girl without a name wakes up from sleep and finds herself in a distant room. A virtual male voice coming from a black box helps the girl remember minute details from her past, as she fails to recall any such memory. At the end of the brief, the voice gives the girl a name, “NN (No Name).”
The voice informs NN that she has spent the last four days in an amnesia clinic, Second Chance, and the institution is her new abode for some time. NN leaves her room and finds attractive teenagers throughout the campus, including a few muscled bodyguards and children playing around.
Instantly, NN befriends other patients of her age, i.e., an enchanting dancer Szymon, a gifted painter Iza “Izabela,” an ace gamer and hacker, Pawel, and a prodigious mathematician Milena. These teenagers suffer from memory loss or amnesia and are thus admitted to Second Chance clinic for their sound recovery.
The head of the facility, Doctor Zofia Morulska, attends NN and informs her about her ongoing condition. Even after NN’s insistence, Zofia doesn’t reveal much about NN and requests to find her answers, which according to her, is a part of her psychic treatment.
Slowly, NN gets settled in the new environment and discovers two peculiar characters, a paranoid and violent Magda and an attractive rebellious young boy, Adam. Through Adam, NN learns two truths from the past, firstly that she is a prodigious pianist. Secondly, her real name is Julia. But even with these revelations, there are too many missing pieces that disturb Julia’s peace. Let’s dig deep.
“Everything is an illusion. You’ll have to believe me.”
Who was Julia? Where was she trapped?
Open Your Eyes was an unending spiral that trapped its viewers in a loop and refused to break the pattern until Episode 6 arrived. By the end of Episode 6, Julia was paranoid to the core and had lost her sanity. But as she woke up from deep sleep (coma), everything was duly answered.
Julia’s real name was Karolina, the name she often heard in her nightmares and subconscious. Karolina suffered brain injuries in a severe car accident and was in a coma for four weeks. She was admitted to the university hospital in Katowice, where neurologist Andrzej Januszewski attended her.
While Karolina was in a coma, her younger sister, Patrycja, was by her side in the hospital. Patrycja was the red-haired girl whom Karolina often saw in her simulated reality or dream. When Karolina came out of the coma, Patrycja underlined that she tried to talk her out of it, but it didn’t work. It was for this reason that Karolina constantly heard Patrycja’s voice calling out for her. Patrycja played Karolina’s favorite classic, “Clair de Lune” by Debussy, and read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which were constant repetitions in Karolina’s simulated reality.
It could be theorized that Karolina was swindling between two realms in her deep conscious sleep and thus perceived bits and pieces of both reality and simulation.
What was the Second Chance facility?
After Karolina was discharged from the hospital, she tried hard to play the piano as she used to before her accident. However, her efforts didn’t hit the right note. It seemed that someone had robbed her of her talent. And it was precisely what happened. Karolina was robbed.
Out of curiosity, Karolina visited opera singer Janina Hass, the woman she saw in a simulated reality. She was a rebellious woman named Magda. Like Karolina, Magda woke up from a coma a few days before, after a terrible skiing accident. Janina had arranged her comeback on stage, but when Karolina visited her rehearsal, Janina was struggling with her talent, just like Karolina.
When Karolina tried to explore, without any ado, Janina handed her a book, “Second Chance” by Zygmunt Tanatowski. In it, Karolina found out about the residence of Professor Tanatowski, which resembled the Second Chance clinic, in which Karolina was trapped. On her journey towards the facility, Karoline witnessed the same petrol pump in her parallel world. She was sure that it wasn’t just a dream.
At Tanatowski’s residence, Karolina didn’t find any concrete evidence. Still, she met Tanatowski’s ex-wife, Edyta, who lived there with her daughter, Anielin. She also discovered that the part of the building was rented to a private nursery, Second Chance, that aimed to find talent in the child early and nurture it.
What was Second Chance doing with the patients?
When Karolina saw Tanatowski’s daughter, Anielin, she instantly recognized her from her dream (in which she was named, “Aniela”). But she was still not sure what was happening until she saw Adam (or real name Ksawery) in her music school.
Second Chance was a simulation program where the wealthy and affluent bought talents for their kids. It was the reason why Doctor Zofia consistently stressed upon discovering one’s skill in the simulation and instantly arranged concerts for Magda/Janina, Julia/Karolina, and Szymon. Through a neuro-transmitting device, Zofia transferred the talents of patients into the kids of wealthy parents who bought it for money. Through the program, Julia’s talent was transferred to Piotr’s son, Adam/Ksawery, and Magda’s talent was shifted to Tanatowski’s daughter, Anielin. Many others would have lost their abilities to rich kids in an elvish orchestrated simulation, and why? Because the rich could afford to buy and poor are always the ones who get oppressed? That’s the most realistic theme in the entire series, I guess.
What was the function of the mainframe hidden in the basement?
So here comes “The Matrix” reference. The black box fixated in each patient’s room, somehow, was virtually connected with their brains. These black boxes were operated by a mainframe computer in the basement that created a simulation facility named Second Chance to steal the patient’s talent and transfer it to the respective buyers.
But the mainframe wasn’t designed to handle the rebellious emotions, and violent behavior witnessed in Magda and Julia. Thus, it crashed and overheated often due to the rebels of the simulation. Understanding the fragility of the system, Piotr pressured Zofia to quickly transfer Julia’s talent to her son, Adam/Ksawery.
Doctor Zofia sold a story to Julia/Karolina that her parents died in a fire accident. She also tried seeding doubts in Karolina’s mind about killing her parents to curb Karolina’s curiosity and rebellious spirit that proved fatal for a simulated reality. But she fought against all odds and cracked the simulation. She came out alive, just like Magda/Janina Hass. they both drowned themselves in water that triggered their brain to wake up, in short, “open their eyes.”
When Karolina woke up, she saw a black box placed on the side table of the hospital for a brief moment. Though, it vanished in the next moment. The curious question that still haunts is who put it there and who made it disappear.
‘Open Your Eyes’ Ending, Explained
Karolina and Janina survived the simulation because they rebelled against it, but Szymon died in it. Inside the facility, Magda clearly established that no one gets out alive. They kill every patient in the end. Thus, it was important for Karolina to solve its mystery and save her friends, Iza, Milena, and others, from an unwanted death.
The ray of hope arrived at Karolina’s doorstep when Zofia visited her as her new psychologist. Zofia informed Karolina that Piotr cleansed Adam/Ksawery’s brain after the talent transfer. That was why he didn’t recognize Karolina in the real world. After learning the truth about the Second Chance Program, Karolina wanted to rescue her friends from the simulation while Zofia was burning with a vengeance.
After Karolina’s mess, Zofia was fired by Piotr, who evidently would have held a higher authority in the system. Now, both Zofia and Karolina had a common enemy. Zofia instructed Karolina to revisit the simulation through the black box she brought to save her friends and destroy the Second Chance forever. It was the ultimate retribution Zofia was looking for.
‘Open Your Eyes’ Season 2: Expectations
In ‘Open Your Eyes‘ Season 2, Karolina will infiltrate the artificial reality to save Iza, Milena, and Pawel and destroy the simulation so it can no longer carry out its devilish schemes. Her journey will be worth witnessing.
I have a personal theory according to which I believe that Karolina’s mother too used the Second Chance services on Karolina when she was a child. A scene in Karolina’s hallucinations depicts her playing the piano while wearing a transmitter. Other evidence to prove the theory is that just like Adam, Karolina had no interest in playing piano, as suggested by Karolina’s younger sister, Patrycja. Karolina’s mother wanted her daughter to become a Prodigy just like other ambitious parents who visited the Second Chance. It could be, or it could be not, Season 2 will unravel further.
Open Your Eyes (Otwórz oczy in Polish) is a 2021 Polish Science Fiction thriller created by Anna Jadowska and Adrian Panek. Season 1 is streaming on Netflix.