Visionary director/writer Juan José Campanella lends credence to the adage that “the eyes are the window to the soul” in his new film, “The Secret in Their Eyes.” Set against the backdrop of a military junta that devastated Argentina in 1974, he’s crafted a compelling mystery, which leaves you hanging until the end.
Ricardo Darin stars as Benjamin, a criminal investigator who is haunted by a brutal rape and murder case that took place 25 years ago. The film opens with the reunion of Benjamin and Irene (Soledad Villamil), who was his superior when the crime was committed. Retired, he now wants to write about the case but realizes Irene isn’t too enthusiastic about the idea. It’s fairly evident that the two have some history between them that doesn’t involve work.
The story twists and turns back and forth between 1974 and 2000. As the plot unfolds, other significant characters, including Benjamin’s alcoholic assistant, the victim’s grieving husband and the real (or not?) perpetrator of the heinous act, provide the suspense, which keeps the audience perpetually guessing.
Campanella’s camerawork is almost a character in itself. He’s constantly zooming in on the actors’ eyes, which hold the key to solving the mystery. I had a problem with the screenplay in that it was too fantastic (as in highly improbable) at times. Finding a soccer fan in a massively crowded stadium and numerous other coincidences somewhat insulted my intelligence. But, I must admit, I loved the unspoken passion that permeated the film.
“The Secret in Their Eyes” won the Oscar this year for Best Foreign Language Film. I was almost as surprised by its win as I was by the film’s incredibly shocking ending.
— Pam Nadon
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