Wednesday, 5 January 2011

The Secret in Their Eyes DVD review

If you think that bankers are boring and pathetic little men who make a lot of money, think again! Not so much on making a lot of money, but boring? No, no, at least not in this magnificent Argentinian film, worthy of its trophy as the Best Foreign Language Film in the Oscars 2010.

An extraordinary, intense and intelligent film that weaves the repercussions of a criminal case closed 25 years before, a murder committed in Buenos Aires in 1974; a love story punctuated by class; and the darkness of political, moral and social corruption within Argentinian society as the dirty war encroaches.

Benjamín Espósito (a deadpan and endearing performance by Ricardo Darín), a retired legal officer, decides to write a novel based on a case of a young woman, Liliana Coloto (a charming Carla Quevedo) , who was raped and murdered twenty five years before; a case which was closed for political reasons, as the convicted murderer (a sinister and understated performance by Javier Godino) became, much to the despair of the victim’s husband, a member of the notorious death squad, the Triple A (Argentine Anti-Communist Alliance), allegedly under the command of the Argentinian President's, Isabel Perón, right hand man, López Rega. The Triple A influence continued after General Videla’s coup, the so-called “dirty war”, which resulted in over 30,000 disappeared people, presumably murdered. This is the context underlying The Secret in Their Eyes.

Espósito re-approaches her old boss, a graduate from Cornell Law School, Irene Menéndez-Hastings (an excellent Soledad Villamil), to talk about his novel. Irene comes from Argentina’s elite , there is a very telling scene when she corrects her superior’s pronunciation of her name when he introduces her to the office, sharply stating her social status by doing so,. During the years that they worked together, there was a latent sensual and love undercurrent defining their relationship, spoilt by social conventions and class expectations. A relationship that kept entwining them together after years of separation. A second love story is that of the banker Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago), the husband of the murdered victim, for her wife, a love which sustained him for twenty five years, and which leads to a completely unexpected conclusion of the film.

In his quest for the outcome of this case, Espósito revisits and revives old acquaintances, reopening old wounds and leading to unexpected consequences that kept wrong footing me throughout the film. By doing so, he touches on issues of memory, reminiscences of times past and the power of the past to shape our present lives. As Espósito says, we only have one life, we cannot relive it and we cannot ignore or forget any of it, as it is still our lives, the only one we have. Flashbacks are seamlessly sewn into the fabric of the film.

The Secret in Their Eyes is a multilayered film capable of sustaining multiple readings. As a crime thriller, it is wonderfully entertaining; however, if you are looking for a romantic interest, it is also there. As a comment on the political, moral and social corruption of 70s Argentina, it is as sharp as any other I have seen precisely because it is not overtly political.

The Secret in Their Eyes is not really about a murder case, but rather a thoughtful reflection on how times past interplay with our present lives. It is a extremely intelligent and marvellously crafted film under the masterful hand of veteran director Juan José Campanella (who also co-wrote the tight knit script with Eduardo Sacheri, the author of the novel – La Pregunta de sus Ojos) and the skilful cinematography of Félix Monti, a serious contender to my list for the 10 Best Films for 2010. 

The DVD is an excellent transfer, with the usual set up options and interviews to the actors, director and crew.

I am not normally in the business of recommending films to my readers, as there are many subjective factors in any judgement of this kind, however, I will make an exception in thoroughly recommending The Secret in Their Eyes as I believe it is a masterful and mesmerizing work which appeals to a wide audience. 

The Secret in Their Eyes is out on DVD in the UK on 
Monday 10 January, 2011

Still and trailer © Metrodome Distribution

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