Wednesday, January 12, 2011

DVD--The Secret in Their Eyes

or: That surprise winner of the Best Foreign Film Oscar.

One word to sum it up: Intriguing.

Everyone seemed somewhat surprised when Argentinian film The Secret in Their Eyes came through and won the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars, ahead of Haneke's The White Ribbon and acclaimed French thriller A Prophet. Maybe this was because it was little seen outside of the Academy, and has only just managed to wind up on DVD in many places. However, once this film is watched, you'll start to see why it won, and also why it is an instant classic.

The retired justice officer Benjamín Espósito (Ricardo Darin) decides to write a novel based on the Morales Case of twenty-five years ago and has difficulties to find the right beginning. He visits his former chief Irene Menéndez-Hastings (Soledad Villamil) in the tribunal to show his draft. In the 70's, Benjamín has an unrequited love for his new-hired chief Irene that belongs to an upper-class. Benjamin is assigned to investigate the murder of Liliana Coloto (Carla Quevodo), a beautiful woman recently married with Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago) that had been brutally raped and murdered. Benjamin and his alcoholic partner Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) feel touched with the grief of Ricardo and go further in their investigation. Benjamin observes that a man named Isidoro Gómez (Javier Godino) is staring Liliana in many pictures and he becomes the prime-suspect. Meanwhile the tension between Benjamin and Irene increases along the days but Benjamin does not understand the signs of her eyes. Twenty five years later, Benjamin is still haunted by his love for Irene and for the unsatisfactory resolution of the Morales Case.

The Secret in Their Eyes, for me, was a very hard movie to watch. That was probably mostly due to the preview disc I was watching it on had some awful typos in the subtitles, but there's this certain feeling to it that draws a very fine line between entertainment and slow-burning intensity. While that is a little uncomfortable, The Secret in Their Eyes is a very enjoyable story which mixes a gritty crime thriller with a sweet romance story. This helps take the edge off a very grimy murder tale, which is controlled by the horrible Gómez. The scene where Irene confronts him about not being the killer is truly a piece of tour de force acting and acute direction, something which is never missing from this fantastic film.

Juan Jose Campanella observes this film in such a way that it is both haunting and flawless. He has an amazing ability to apply his skills technically, which is evident in the opening sequence where he uses a double exposure effect. The way the camera lingers on the performers to convey a longer lasting message is simply perfect, and steals the film away. It cross cuts between present time and flashbacks of 25 years ago, but uses the same actors to portray each time period. Ricardo Darin and Soledad Villamil do this perfectly, and also have undeniable chemistry which makes the romantic part of this movie very interesting to watch. While it may look like your average murder movie, it has no trouble setting itself apart from those films. The killer is revealed early on instead of making you guess, so it's really an unpredictable character driven movie which focusses on how these types of things affect them. Throwing in the right amount of grotesque dialogue and a nicely done chase scene at a soccer match, and The Secret in Their Eyes is completely deserving of it's Academy Award.

THE VERDICT: Juan Jose Campanella creates a fantastically intriguing thriller which weaves violence and a love story together almost flawlessly.



  1. I've wanted to check out The Secret in their Eyes for a while now, and completely forgot to try and sneak into the cinema when it got it's release here early last year (an 18), and your review makes it sound worth the time!

    A Prophet is one of my favourite films of all time (I've had my Tahar Rahim obsession since October 09' and it's never faultered!) and The White Ribbon has some of the best cinematography I've ever seen, so it'd be interesting to see The Secret in Their Eyes having adored A Prophet and liking The White Ribbon.

  2. Both the Oscar win and your review prove that this film is worth wathing it. Most likely, I'm procrastinating before seeing it because I'm more a fan of American and British films.

  3. @ Cherokee Have you managed to sneak into any other movies? Haha. I'm going to watch A Prophet next week (I am so excited!) as it comes out on DVD then. Sadly, I don't think I'll get to see The White Ribbon, as no one has it on DVD, even though it's been released. But The Secret in Their Eyes is truly fantastic.

    @ Lesya By all means, see it! I was procrastinating about it for the same reason as you. I got the disc out like three times before I actually watched it.

  4. When I was probably 14, and got into 15s. Not much of an achievement though xD I actually got ID'd for a 15, (a couple of months ago, a month before I was 17) with my friend, and I was like THE FUCK? It was a hilarious moment, as I know I look my age, and certainly don't look 14 xD

    Yes! I'm not sure if you'll love it or not (it is about 2 and a half hours long,) but I'd be very impressed if you did. It has all these weird surreal elements mixed into the film which worked so well. And Tahar Rahim is obviously my husband. Can't wait for his new film directed by Lou Ye hopefully coming out sometime this year (Lou Ye is an excellent director, you should check him out if you haven't already!)

    The Secret in Their Eyes is definitely going on my watch list now!

    On the note of the procrastinating thing that Lesya mentioned, I have grown up with all kinds of world cinema in the household, so I never notice when a film isn't in English. Actually, when I went to the London Film Festival, I'd been watching so many subtitled films, that when an English speaking film (think it was Catfish), screened, I actually thought - "where are the subtitles?"

    Some of the best stuff comes out outside of America and England though. Again, I have to bring up Japanese cinema, as I will vouch for them that they constantly produce good stuff. (Except the odd awful anime spin-off and Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (2nd sequel to Tetsuo: The Iron Man - one of my fav films,) looks dreadful.

  5. Haha, when I went to the city last week, at the cinemas they kept trying to charge me for being an adult (16 or over). They would always look at me funnily when I said 'no I'm a child, I'm actually 15'. I was going to try and see if they would let me in an R16, but the only ones showing were Love and Other Drugs and Due Date. Damn, Black Swan or 127 Hours should have been on!

    Haha, I'm watching like three other movies the night I get to watch A Prophet, and I'm already guessing it'll be the best by a long shot! Can't wait!

    I only started watching subtitled films in late 2009 when I watched Let the Right One In. It realy doesn't bother me, having the subtitles, but sometimes I have to be in the mood for them. As I said, I got the disc out three times, with the intention to watch it every time, but I just ended up watching the other movie on the disc (which happened to be Animal Kingdom).

    You're right: the best stuff doesn't usually come from America or Britain.

  6. Oh man, you reminded me I was charged for an adult ticket when I went to see The Social Network. I couldn't be bothered to bring it up (as I usually would,) but I'm not a particularly stingy person since I have no money anyways xD

    Basically, you got stuck with the crap (L&OD and DD.) You should definitely try to blag your way into Black Swan and 127 Hours though. When it comes to doing that kind of shit, you always have to be nonchalant about it, and then no one bothers to bring it up, or they don't even notice. Go for it!

    Be prepared for A Prophet! Hopefully it hasn't been hyped up too much (even though it lives up to the hype and beyond.)

    I get what you mean as other people have mentioned too about not being in the mood for subtitles. Living on anime for a number of years, (and crap anime TV shows at that,) makes me not notice subtitles at all. The worst is when people claim to not watch a film "because it has subtitles" or that, "it can't be good, it's not in English." But those are the kinds of people that obviously don't love film.

    And that was a good choice too! (Watching Animal Kingdom) since you ended up loving that film.

    Wait, do you get preview discs working at Blockbuster by any chance? If so, that is awesome (and yes, I am jealous of such things!)

  7. Haha, I was nearly charged for an adult ticket when I went to go and see The Social Network too. I would have paid it, but then again, I wanted popcorn, which was like as much as the ticket. Sometimes it's useful being youthful (whole...did I just attempt a rap there?!)

    Gah, I hate it when people just turn down subtitled movies. Like at work, we apparently never get subtitled movies coz 'no one rents them'. Luckily, I argued to get A Prophet, which I won because it was cheaper than all the rest. I also argued that we had to get The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which we did. Then someone said they wouldn't order The Girl who Played with Fire because it is subtitled, at which point I had to explain that it would be stupid not to get it as the first film was so popular. Sadly, we didn't get Let the Right One In, until I had one ordered in for myself. Before it came, I bought it from somewhere else, so they had no choice but to put it in the shop! Since then, it's been one of the most popular horror renters...until someone stole it :(

    Yeah, we get previews. But hold off your jealousy. It's very rare that we get good movies that have been given a theatrical release in there. Most of them are straight-to-DVD horrors which no one ever watched anyway. That drawer is kind of like from-the-depths-of-DVD-hell, if you know what I mean.

  8. In the space of two weeks or something, I think I went to the cinema about 4 or 5 times, and I just couldn't down another box of popcorn. Anything but the popcorn! I think you just attempted a rap there! New career perhaps?

    The only defence people can come up with for not reading subtitles is that it detracts from the image (even though I don't think so as I am so used to it.) Once you've watched enough subtitled films/tv shows, whatever, you don't even notice it anymore. The rest of people against subtitles have no argument. But the worst culprit of all is dubbing. Lord, how much I hate dubbing. It just detracts from the whole experience of watching a film, and the performance ofthe person in it. Dubbing can really destroy a film, and most of the time, they're awful dubs.

    Also, what was the point of stealing LTROI if it's gonna have like a massive blockbuster stamp inside (does it? I haven't rented DVDs in years, apart from on, but they don't come in cases.)

    I'm sure there are some straight-to-DVD horrors that are good (I mean, I'm sure I've watched something that's gone straight-to-DVD that is worthy of someone's time...can't think of anything at the moment though.)

    The DVD drawer sounds like a labyrinth full of crappy DVDs or someting hahha.

  9. I went to the cinemas four times last week, but only got popcorn twice, mainly because at the end of The Social Network it gave me a huge headache. I think me and my friend were just amazed that the popcorn came in a bucket and didn't fall out the bottom like they do in those cardboard boxes, so we had to get some.

    Oh yes, I am going to be a rapper. I think it's my calling...

    When I was watching The Secret in Their Eyes, I was wondering if the subtitles were detracting me from the picture, and they actually weren't. Subtitled films are mind-numbingly easy to watch. Lord, dubbing is awful. I mean, I haven't seen a full length film with dubbing in it, but we have these ads for cleaning stuff which are terribly dubbed...they are painful.

    Yup, it has Blockbuster all over it, so it's pointless, really. Mind you, we always find cases which have been broken into and had the disc stolen, wedged behind some other cases. Come on, it's only five dollars!

    Yeah, there have been some good ones in there, particularly Let the Right One In, since that supplier always sends us some good ones. But the others? One day I should get some out to have a laugh...

  10. Four times? The only time I did that was when The London Film Fest was going, and I went to see The Social Network and a Memories of Murder and Mother double-bill after.

    I've never had the experience of my popcorn bursting thank God, but when I go to the cinema on my own (which is most of the time, I feel I can get a lot more out of the film when I am alone as that's how I tend to watch films, plus it's cheapier - and on the selfish side - I can see what I would like too,) I don't usually get popcorn unless someone is there.

    Trust me, you never want to live through dubbing. I mean, it's fine for Kung-Fu films because there is a kind of hidden charm about it, and it's not taken seriously, but when it is, lord does it detract from a film. You get a whole different version with dubbed voices. Just read the goddamn subtitles, people!

    I'm sure they have a lot of a so-bad-they're-good in that drawer, but probably some pretty good ones too. You never know.

  11. I never usually get to go the cinemas, so it was pretty cool going four times in one week. I'm like you, I like to go to the cinemas by myself, just because I don't like watching movies with anyone else. I never used to get popcorn, but then I realized how yum the stuff was at the cinemas which I go most often to, so I seem to get it all the time.

    I'm pretty sure subtitles are a lot more painless than the dubbing. It's just like watching a movie out of sync...which is stupid.

    They probably do have a lot of those films in that drawer. One day, when I get time, I'll just randomly pluck one out and see what happens.


You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.


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