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DVD: The Secret in Their Eyes | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: The Secret in Their Eyes

DVD: The Secret in Their Eyes

Oscar-winning thriller disinters lost love and death in Argentina's dirty past

A mystery with jigsaw pieces spread across a quarter-century: Ricardo Darin and Soledad Villamil

When The Secret in Their Eyes beat the more fancied A Prophet and The White Ribbon to last year's Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film, there was mild consternation. But Argentine Juan José Campanella’s film works both as a mystery with jigsaw pieces spread across a quarter-century, and an equally fragmented, frustrated romance.

Retired legal investigator Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) visits his old boss Irene Hastings (Soledad Villamil) to discuss the novel he’s struggling to write based on their shared experiences around a savage murder case 25 years earlier, in 1974. Love and justice are both matters of unresolved regret for Benjamin, who is using the novel to examine memories which have haunted him ever since. Darin is a hangdog, softly appealing leading man, matched by Villamil’s sharp sarcastic banter. The flame he still carries for her, despite her marriage all those years ago, is as secret yet undeniable to them both as the motives he once fancied he could see in murderers’ eyes.

1974 was two years before the Argentine dictatorship which would leave 30,000 “disappeared”, and smirkingly blatant corruption upends the justice Benjamin and Irene thought they’d painstakingly found for that murdered woman and her bereft young husband. In the most chilling flashback to those days (pictured above), the killer they thought they’d locked away steps into their court-house lift and, not deigning to turn around, pulls out and cocks his pistol. The would-be heroes are helpless in the face of such state-sponsored anarchy. All Benjamin can do is put his head down, and run.

Campanella shows a sure touch, building his effects from quietly atmospheric conversations as much as sweaty set pieces. His film about dirty secrets in Argentina’s past and lives lived emptied of satisfaction ever since is itself a small miracle of satisfying rightness. Its gracefully perfect end should elicit the same contented sighs as Casablanca-era Hollywood.

Watch the trailer for The Secret in Their Eyes

The flame he still carries for her is as secret yet undeniable as the motives he once saw in murderers’ eyes

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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I saw this film two days ago - the best film I've seen for a long time - can't stop thinking about it, and will watch it again in a week or so I think. I want to explore more Argentinian cinema.

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