“The Secret in Their Eyes”

One day in my teens, I was watching a film retrospective on television; during the program clips were shown from F.W. Murnau’s 1922 masterpiece, “Nosferatu.” I immediately took a trip down to the video store in my neighborhood, found it, and rented it. From the first frame to the last I sat entranced at what I was viewing, and from that day forth I’ve been hooked on foreign cinema. The subject of this week’s blog is the 2009 Argentinean film “The Secret in Their Eyes.” Directed and written by Juan Jose Campanella (Son of the Bride) based upon the book “La Pregunta de Sus Ojos” written by Eduardo Sacheri, who also co-wrote the script. It is a crime thriller that took home the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd annual Academy Awards.

Secret-in-their-Eyes

The role of Benjamin Esposito, portrayed in a true to life manner by actor Ricardo Darin, (Carancho) is that of a retired Argentinean federal justice who is writing a novel about a case that two decades later still perplexes him. He begins to play out his memories of the events that surrounded the case. By doing this Esposito begins a journey down a path that gives him a greater clarity as to the truth of why certain things transpired the way they did and what happened to a particular individual who is central to the crime. The case involves the vicious rape and murder of Liliana Coloto, played in flashback sequences in her debut role by Carla Quevedo. The aftermath of the terrible crime leaves Liliana’s grieving husband Ricardo, portrayed in a haunting performance by Pablo Rago, (Belgrano) to conduct his own investigation into trying to catch the killer. The movie shifts effortlessly from present to past to present again in a style, that causes no confusion.

In the scenes of the film that deal with the past, the viewer learns that Esposito had the help of both his assistant, Sandoval, a hardcore drunk who demonstrates flashes of intellectual genius in the film, adroitly acted by Guillermo Francella (Marziano’s), and their immediate superior, Irene Hastings, convincingly played by Soledad Villamil (Red Bear). Initially, Esposito thinks that he has in custody not one, but two killers who committed the crime, but he quickly ascertains that the real killer is still on the loose. Thereafter, he spends the greater part of the remainder of the film attempting to track down his lead suspect who seems to come and go unseen at will as if he were an actual phantom. This movie never delves into the supernatural, so the suspect is not a ghost, but rather a flesh and blood man played to sleazy perfection by Javier Godino (Deception).
Coinciding with his search for the killer, Esposito comes to terms with the fact that he is in love with Irene, even though he knows that she is engaged to be married to another man. Not only is the engagement an obstacle to his pursuit of her, but also his station in life and background, he feels, are much too beneath hers for her to get involved with a man such as himself. Benjamin allows his heart’s passion to fall by the wayside, and avoids showing his feelings to Irene. In the present day, the two treat one another as old friends, and Esposito seeks Irene’s input regarding the novel he is working on. They both are displeased with the manner in which the case ended.

This is a piece of cinema that truly is tied to its title. There are countless films I can think of where the dialogue the characters are speaking is sometimes slightly different, and other times radically different, from what they are really trying to convey. It happens all the time, but this film takes it a step further. In this movie the implications of what is really meant is being expressed more so through the character’s eyes than their words…And the scenes that were shot between Esposito and Hastings made for particularly powerful use of this technique.

I often hear the complaint from individuals who don’t like foreign films that the reason for that is because the subtitles move too fast. I will agree with you if you have that mindset, but only up to a certain point. If you go out to the movies and are sitting and watching a foreign film in the theater you might miss something because the words are moving too fast, but in the comfort of your own home you have the wonderful invention of the pause button on the remote. If you’re a fan of films in general, but normally don’t see foreign movies, make an exception in this case. It is an all encompassing piece of cinema that is rich in story, engrossing, well acted, thoroughly entertaining, and will keep you guessing as to its ultimate outcome until the end. See for yourself why Argentina was given the honor of being the only Latin American country to ever win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film twice, the other winner was the 1985 movie “The Official Story.”

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About robbinsrealm

I was born in Smithtown, New York, and grew up, worked, and lived in various areas of Long Island before moving to Boca Raton, Florida where I now make my home. In addition to being an aspiring writer, I am also an English teacher. I have a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master’s Degree in Education, both from Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. In my spare time you will find me engrossed in books, watching movies, socializing with friends, or just staying active.
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14 Responses to “The Secret in Their Eyes”

  1. Tom says:

    I really enjoyed your review here Jonathan. I must say foreign films are a pretty big blindspot for me, I need to watch more.

    On a different note, I wonder if the upcoming Billy Ray movie, similarly titled ‘Secret in their Eyes,’ and starring Julia Roberts, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Nicole Kidman will have anything to do with this version. The plot synopses sound the same and those titles are eerily similar if they are, in fact, not related. Either way, I would like to see both films.

    • table9mutant says:

      Ugh. I hate Hollywood. I assume it’s a remake. 😦 Tom! Watch this one instead! It’s a fantastic film. 🙂

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you, Tom, for reading and commenting; I very much appreciate it.

      From what I’ve read, as well as some of the other comments people have made, the film is going to be a re-make of the original. While I don’t think it is necessary to re-make the movie, I am sure I will get around to watching it at some point. I think Ejifor is an excellent actor.

      When you get a chance to see the original, I hope you enjoy watching it.

  2. Jay says:

    Great review. I don’t mind foreign films at all, but I do have to be mindful about the subtitles – I”m pretty ADD and I rarely just sit in front of a screen.

  3. Been a while since I saw this film, but remember enjoying every minute of it. A perfect example of a film showing, and not telling you, what is going on

  4. Good take Jonathan. Heard things about this one, but I, like Tom, want to get into more current foreign films but an outlet is hard to find outside of Netflix. This one sounds intriguing, though.

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Thank you as always for reading and commenting.

      I agree with you that Netflix is the place to start in terms of having a good selection of foreign films, especially since there are few, if any, video stores left. I live in South Florida, which isn’t exactly in the middle of nowhere, and after the Blockbusters closed up, that was it in terms of going to a store to rent a movie. I certainly haven’t come across any local mom and pop video stores where I live.

      The film is one that kept my attention throughout. I hope if you get a chance to see it, that you like it.

  5. table9mutant says:

    Great review! I love foreign films & this is one of the best. What an ending! 🙂

    • robbinsrealm says:

      I couldn’t agree more, the ending was an excellent conclusion to a well executed film that held my interest from start to finish.

      Thank you for reading my post and for your comment.

  6. Wendell says:

    This is an excellent film. Glad you enjoyed it. Odd that a silent film sparked your love of foreign cinema since all the placards are in English (at least the version I saw). Happy it did, though. FYI, the American movie on the way is definitely a remake.

    • robbinsrealm says:

      Agreed, it is a wonderful movie, and I was glad I watched it.

      Yes, I also consider it a bit strange that a silent film ignited my love of foreign cinema. Like yourself, in the version I saw, the placards were also in English translated from the German. After watching the film, I began to speak to someone that I knew was a big foreign film enthusiast. He started talking to me about The German Expressionist movement, but the conversation didn’t end there. In addition, he suggested I start watching movies directed by Godard, Kurosawa, Jean-Pierre Melville and François Truffaut, naming specific titles I should view. Afterwards, if a foreign film was in the theater and sounded interesting, I would go, if I could, to see it, and in addition to the mainstream films I rented, I would frequently check out the foreign film section of my local video store.

      My tastes are very diverse, and I watch an eclectic mix of foreign films; two of my favorites, are the antithesis of one another: “Battle Royale” directed by Kinji Fukasaku, and “Vivre Sa Vie” directed by Jean-Luc Godard.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, I appreciate it.

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