The Secret in their Eyes

Decades Investigation in Argentina


16 May 2010| No Comments on The Secret in their Eyes     by Sean Chavel


Intriguing and literate stuff. A writer works out his beginning of a novel which pop up in vibrant imaginary dream sequences. Two of them are beautiful and ecstatic visions that celebrate the love a man has for a woman or the heart-ripping of letting go of a woman, and the third plunges into the terrible vicious attack of an innocent woman wronged. This is the opening of The Secret in their Eyes, the Argentina import that is the 2010 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Film.

What the writer is grappling with is softening the blow before he gets to the really nasty but inevitable scene in his book which is based on a tragedy he witnessed 25 years earlier. For the rest of the film I cared about what will happen to Benjamin (Ricardo Darin), a retired criminal court investigator who is now this aging writer. Jumping back and forth into the present, we wonder why he never professed his love for Irene (Soledad Villamil), a judge and former colleague who just so happens to be tied into everything that she too is part of his new novel.

The case that changed their lives forever deals with the rape and murder of a beautiful 23-year old woman whose survivor husband devotes the rest of his life for her, which proves undying. The police are baffled by the case, obviously baffled when they carelessly arrest an individual based on absolute non-circumstantial evidence. Months later after the case has been closed as unsolved, Benjamin petitions the judge to re-open it because he thinks he can pin it on one suspect.

The director of the film, Juan Jose Campanella with his sixth credit, is gifted visually in his ability to set a mood whether it’s a sense of brooding or exalting. There is a tracking shot that starts as an aerial over the soccer stadium and goes into the stands and then through the interior walls of a stadium. It should be hailed as one of the most astonishing tracking shots of all-time right up there with “GoodFellas” or “Touch of Evil” but because it’s not an English-language film, it could go forgotten.

Without the fancy camerawork, the film could easily fall back on dialogue no problem. The film contains classic interrogation scenes that are so unorthodox in its approach that you wonder if the miracles of reverse psychology tactics really are effective as this. But this also becomes a story of justice versus injustice, so in a way, the movie wants to rip your heart out twice. But indeed it keeps you involved every step of the way.

I want to bring up a few subtractions that work against the film: I never felt that I really breathed in Argentina as a setting (the movie is a tad hermetic with its settings inside the courthouse, the criminal’s home, etc.), and for a Best Foreign Film winner you always let’s admit want to come away feeling that you got a sense of an entire country’s canvass. Secondly, we don’t know the dead girl beyond her pictures. We’re asked to sympathize with her on the singular note that she’s pretty and because death is inherently tragic.

The twist ending is good enough for a Korean film (I happen to think Korean cinema is the most creative and richest in the world currently). But I nearly forget that this is Argentina. Twisted it is.

127 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” (2002, South Korea); “Memories of Murder” (2003, South Korea); “Secret Sunshine” (2007, South Korea); “Dogtooth” (2009, Greece).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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