The Secret in Their Eyes
(El Secreto de Sus Ojos)
This Argentinean film won the most-recent best foreign
picture Oscar Award. Co-writer/director Juan José Campanella (who did a
string of directing stints on US shows including 30 Rock and Law &
Order: SVU) sings a hymn to the country of his birth which spans the
twilight of military rule in the mid 1970s to the present day. Through
it all, dogged criminal investigator Benjamín Esposito (Ricardo Darin)
and his bathetic sidekick Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) (comparisons to
Cervantes’ duo are inevitable) are ensconced in the overwhelming yet
sterile marble pillars of the crooked justice system.
Retirement doesn’t suit Esposito all that well and so he takes to
writing, choosing to focus on an infamous murder case which did not come
to a clear conclusion. To do the job properly, he must engage former
legal superior Irene (Soledad Villamil), who belongs to the aristocracy
and studied law in the US, at Cornell. She is intelligent, spicy and
earthy: the kind of Latin substance we would expect. The final player is
Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago), whose school-teacher wife was the subject
of a rape and killing. Mention must also go to how convincingly they are
made to span the decades!
is so many things in one, I almost swoon at recounting them. I also get
the gnawing feeling that describing them will only serve as spoilage. It
is a story about story-telling; that kind of thing which can be terrific
for people who appreciate it but a compete turn-off for those who do
not. It is also a love-story: a long, winding exploration of the
varieties and enduring finality of a force that binds people. To stop
the whole movie from grinding to a halt, there is also well-shot
suspense and well-written humour.
Based on the novel by Eduardo Sacheri (who co-wrote the screenplay),
is also very particular to Argentina and its Latin American flavour of
dictatorship and soccer (fútbol)—in fact, the stadium sequence is
pure exhilaration and technical mastery, serving only to underline the
filmmakers’ versatility. Explicit swipes at the imbalance of power and
fairness are made and woven into the universal question of what is just:
the law or revenge?
wonder had the film not won the Academy Award, would we have even heard
about it in Australia? But such speculation is useless. The point is we
have it and I would recommend it to everyone with an attention span and
interest adequate for subtitles. A fair warning also about a scene in
which someone proves his masculinity quite directly!