The Secret in Their Eyes

The 2010 Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film “The Secret in Their Eyes” is best described as a cross between a “Law & Order” episode, a memory piece, a romance, a comedy and a revenge melodrama. It is a compelling story with a very fine sense of how past and present inform one another. The film also intelligently questions how healthy it is for a person’s sanity to become too involved with the past.

Retired Argentinian Federal Justice Agent Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) is writing a novel based on a 20-year-old rape and murder case with which he was involved but that was not resolved satisfactorily. In his re-investigation he comes face to face with issues and people from the long ago case, especially his department Chief Irene Menendez-Hastings (Soledad Villamil) still on the job. Esposito, always attracted to Menendez-Hastings, never pursued her romantically due to the differences in their ages and social classes.

The film’s flashback sequences show the trajectory of the case and the relationships between Esposito, Menendez-Hastings and fellow investigator Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella). In an interesting photographic choice the past and present sequences all have the same look, as opposed to, for example, muted colors for one and brighter colors for the other. The consistency in look for past and present has the effect of having us focus on the characters, especially their faces, to know the time period of a particular sequence. The same actors play their characters in the present and in the past. Their hair, make up and clothes are adjusted accordingly depending on the time period. The changes in look never feel forced or contrived as can sometimes happen with flashback sequences. The story is well told in a manner which is intriguing and at points keeps the audience appropriately off balance.

Ultimately “The Secret in Their Eyes” is about passion. Almost every character in the film has something about which they are passionate. The theme takes on different shades as the characters’ loves and obsessions pull the story in interesting directions. In fact at one point the hard drinking Pablo Sandoval has a short speech about his love for getting drunk in dive bars that is effective, memorable and firmly establishes the film’s theme of passion. Ultimately memory, passion and love all culminate in a resolution that is simultaneously disturbing, thought provoking and satisfying.

The Secret in Their Eyes, Director Juan Jose Campanella, 2009
127 minutes, rated R

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on June 4, 2010, in New. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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