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The Secret In Their Eyes

The Secret In Their Eyes

By Patrick Samuel • March 18th, 2012
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Metrodome Distribution

Release date: November 28th, 2011
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 124 minutes

Director: Juan José Campanella
Writers: Juan José Campanella, Eduardo Sacheri

Cast: Soledad Villamil, Ricardo Darin, Carla Quevedo, Pablo Rago, Javier Godino

Told in flashbacks and directed by Juan José Campanella, The Secret In Their Eyes is an Argentine film that went on to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2010 Academy Awards. Its story unfolds while it pulls you in, allowing the tension to build as you get nearer to secrets and passions these characters have kept hidden for so long.

Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darín), has spent his life working as a criminal court employee. Now that he’s retired and has time on his hands, he’s decided to write a novel and it turns out to be based on a case he was never able to forget.

In 1974, a young woman was brutally raped and murdered in her home and Esposito was assigned to the case. When he interviewed the woman’s widower, Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago), he was left so moved by his love for her and overwhelmed by his grief that he became devoted to the case and determined to solve the murder.

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Esposito and his employee, the faithful yet wayward alcoholic, Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) interviewed suspects and tracked down people who knew the murdered woman from as far back as when she was at school, but with no clues at the scene of the crime, he relied solely on guesswork and his own instincts.

As the case continued he became even more determined to bring the killer to justice but this landed him in trouble with his superiors, including Irene (Soledad Villamil), a woman he’s been in love with but who was about to marry another man.

Returning to the case once more and catching up with Irene and Pablo after all those years, Esposito begins to realise that memories can change over time. They become misty fragments of what happened. Looking at the case with fresh eyes again and re-examining his feelings for the woman he still loves leads him to uncover the secrets which they’ve all kept hidden.

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The Secret In Their Eyes is a compelling look at how memory, perception and imagination, though all related, are essentially different. While perception relates to events which are happening and imagination, to events which never happened, memory conjures events which have happened but are fused with emotions such as love, guilt, grief, anger and longing and can therefore cloud the experience of what really happened.

“Memory fascinates me. The way decisions we made twenty or thirty years ago can affect us today. This could also apply to a nation’s memories. As we now recover our memory of the 1970’s as a country, we know that the horror began to take shape before the military dictatorship. The story takes place in that Argentina as the very air thickened, creeping up on and enveloping even the key players.” ~ Juan José Campanella

In some ways The Secret In Their Eyes reminded me of Hidden (2005) by Michael Haneke; a story of how we conceal truth, not only from others, but also from ourselves. While Hidden was a commentary on the Paris Algerian massacre in 1961, this one is of the Peronist Party and the lead up to the Dirty War in the years between 1976 and 1983.

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Throughout the film we are also left looking into the eyes of the characters. We see what Esposito does not see; the love in Irene’s eyes, the intent in Isidoro’s and the emptiness left inside of Pablo from the life he has lost.

“My aim was to tell this story as a mixture: of small beings wandering through a sea of people, among huge structures, lost in the crowd – and their eyes. The story of that man walking by a hundred meters away at the train station, with five hundred bodies between us and him. What could we learn about him if suddenly, with no cuts, we could see a close up of his eyes? What secrets would they have to tell?” ~ Juan José Campanella

Pablo Rago as the haunted widower Ricardo is mesmerising. His grief comes in waves and he is shaken by the emotions he still feels for his lost wife and the life they would have shared together. He is unforgettable and tragic in this role. Javier Godino, as Isidoro Gómez, is a dirty piece of work; his character is vile, twisted and sick. His confrontation with Irene while he is being questioned is a scene played for maximum tension and shock. Later on, they have another in an elevator and it’s a true credit to the actors that it remains so restrained and yet agonising.

The Secret In Their Eyes a standout piece of cinema, held together by compelling performances and a story that will remain deep in your mind long after the credits have rolled.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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