Thursday, June 17, 2010

[review] The Secrets In Their Eyes

El Secreto De Sus Ojos, The Secrets In Their Eyes, Argentina, 2009 Best Foreign Film Oscar

A murder mystery that isn't all a mystery.
Starts with an horrific murder/rape in the 1970s being recalled by a retired detective with a judge whom we suspect is more than just a colleague in his eyes. He reveals his intention of writing a book about this infamous case. We expect the murder to be a mystery with the culprit revealed in the last minutes. Nope. We find him about 2/3 through the movie. After this, I was left wondering where the plot was going; the murderer is let out of prison by corrupt government officials, and then disappears.

The story flips back and forth between the never-clearly-defined Today and the 1970s (Isabel Peron's appearance & vague comments indicate the 1976 military coup's immediacy). Yet unlike other movies' attempts at concurrent then/now plots, this succeeds in keeping the whole story flowing. The 1970 elements aren't undermined by information from the 2000 elements, leaving us anticipating each new scene. The relationships between the detective/judge, detective/widower, widower/murderer all have roles in the story, although it isn't always immediately clear how/if they all fit together.

The make-up crew did an excellent job making the central pair perfectly believable in both younger & older incarnations of their characters. I checked how old the actors are, out of curiosity. Darin was 51 & Villamil 39 for filming. Somewhere in the script the detective (Darin) mentions how old he is, making him much older than the 1976 story, while Villamil is much younger than her character for the 2000-ish part.

The story revolves around the detectives' efforts to find the murderer, the widower's efforts to reconcile himself with the loss of his wife and the inability of Argentine justice to offer the death penalty. He discards this notion of retribution, suggesting that if he were locked up and raped in prison for the rest of his life, that would be a greater retribution, making the murderer experience what he did to the wife.

Argentinian criminal justice not being organized as it is here, the judges and detectives work more closely than we as Americans expect. There is a chronic struggle for the detective with his feelings for the judge.

I had never seen either actor before. Ricardo Darin was in an American film, The Stranger; Soledad Villamil was no English-language credits. Juan Jose Campanella has directed quite a few American TV shows, but only two English-language movies, incl. Love Walked In.

All in all, each of the elements of movie making were extremely well done. I can very much see how it would win an Oscar. I will likely see it again.

Gopher Rating:
2 - Go see it on the big screen, at matinee prices.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How interesting that the country of the Los Disaperados (the Disappeared) has a problem with the death penalty. Of course, having neither people disappearing without a trace at the hands of government agents nor the death penalty would be preferable. I tend to agree with the widower.

Reminds me of the Joren van der Sloot case that's the darling of the media right now. But that's Peru....

I still haven't seen this movie. I have learned that the novel it's based on will be published in the U.S. either this fall or next spring.