Wednesday, March 10, 2010

El secreto de sus ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes)

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The Secret in Their Eyes fell under my radar after watching the Oscar nominations for 2009. I had watched A Prophet and The White Ribbon and I was interested in seeing how this rather unknown movie competed with these two masterworks.

Juan José Campanella's movie follows Benjamín Esposito's investigation of the rape and murder of a 23-year-old schoolteacher. It's a case that haunts him for decades and comes to define his existence. The movie is temporally fragmented, so the narrative jumps from past to present constantly. I should commend the makeup department for its ability to portray the ageing of actors Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Pablo Rago and Javier Godino. Without good makeup, this movie would have fallen apart quickly.

Esposito's investigation takes many turns, meets opposition several times, comes to halts several times in the course of his life, ruins his personal life, and seems like it will never be solved. At the age of retirement he begins reminiscing about it and starts writing a novel based on the event.

This movie addresses many topics at the same time: first of all, the craft of fiction, as Esposito struggles to make sense of the events in order to write his novel. But through this inner journey, the movie also discusses the importance of memory. It also explores the danger of obsession, as Esposito comes to realise that decades working on the case has only left him with a lonely, empty life.

All these ruminations are disguised as a crime movie, a rather elegant one at that. The movie plays with genre a few times, the best one being that it reveals who the murderer is before the end of the first hour. By doing this the movie introduces a more interesting idea: what to do with a criminal who's politically untouchable? Is vigilantism ever justified? At times I reminded myself of Mystic River, which posed similar questions, although the stories are totally different.

Ricardo Darín gives a good performance; in fact I have little to complain about the performances in the movie, but Darín stood out as the passionate, tireless investigator. Pablo Rago, who plays the victim's husband, also impressed me for his ability to portray loss so well.

Since I watched this movie because of A Prophet and The White Ribbon, I have to ask myself: is it as good as those two? No, not by a long chance. The Secret of Her Eyes has quality and good ideas, but I never felt I was watching more than a good movie, whereas I consider the other two masterworks. It's worth watching, but it's hardly the masterpiece everyone is saying it is.

On a final note, if this movie deserved another Oscar nomination, It should be for Federico Jusid's score, whose beauty will no doubt get him more exposure soon.

By Eumenides_0 from Portugal

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