Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Secret in Their Eyes- Juan Jose Campanella (adapted from a novel by Eduardo Sacheri)


The Secret in Their Eyes is a film of mystery.  Its beauty is blurry, a love story thrown in a blender of oppressive and corrupt politics flicking from Argentina of 1974 to now-ish. Ignoring the oddly misplaced football CGI bit that was its stand out point for looking oddly misplaced, I liked this film for its fairy tale format muddled into a thriller with sporadic violence. Indefinable even with a broad world cinema tag, it tells stories of passion, obsession, and memories, lost opportunity woven into a crime that the main character can’t let go.

Benjamin Esposito, a retired crime investigator and wannabe novelist, requests the reopening of a case that has haunted him for 25 years; the brutal rape and murder of a young, newly married school teacher. While befriending the devastated husband Morales, he’s sees love in his eyes that will never die with his young wife’s memory. This haunts Esposito and parallels his growing feeling for his boss Irene Menendez Hastings. While he obsesses over the young Morales loss opportunity of a love filled life, he fails to see his own happiness and fulfilment slipping away until he starts his novel; his cathartic journey with a typewriter that’s malfunctioning 'a' key drives him to distraction.

It’s a simple story really, a story of love and how men deal with it. The women are mostly bystanders for their angst in this one. The tragedy of Morales and his wife is that he doesn’t continue to live, he (SPOILER) imprisons her killer and lives a life as gaoler of misery, a recluse with photographs of his young beloved sitting on the side as he ages alone in a turmoil of guilt that he could never ‘rescue’ her. The tragedy of Esposito is he loves, and undecided as to whether to challenge social convention, backs away, wastes time while Irene ‘waits’ and meanwhile marries and has children with someone else. It gets complicated (which sounds so much better in Spanish) and she continues to wait…then he finally makes a decision, after many affairs. This slightly annoyed me.

Meanwhile Irene notes the main suspect of the murder (a biggie on the sub plot factor) looking down her top, goads him into a confessional using the age old tactic of humiliation and questioning his manhood. Where was Irene’s daring with Benjamin; professionally Irene is formidable, personally she is unfulfilled and passive.

What is also apparent in this film is that men don’t forgive easily; retribution and suffering can only make their peace, whereas women forgive to make peace, even in extreme violence (The Crying Tree, Room…books where women forgive in extreme crime but men posture and seek vengeful peace). There are exceptions to the rule, this film could easily be compared to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, (especially re the use of photographs to solve a mystery)  yet the character Lisbeth Slander, the victim of crime is more active, more vengeful and her waiting for the man of her affections is less passive than the subdued passion of Irene in this story. The story of Liliana Coloto is merely beautiful food for worms, possibly the more depressingly realistic outcome in a film centred on the violation of a young woman.

So this film does offer a pallet for both sexes in that it has intrigue, romance, violence, revenge, passion, sport and art… clever Campanella really. Not enough women in this for me personally, there’s three; a dead one, a beautiful one and a batty old one with a dog.  And in two hours of film, I would have liked to have seen Isidoro Gomez’ build up to the ultimate crime of rape and murder. From the little I know about killers is they build up to it, and this build up to Lilliana’s death was not covered, in fact she let him in, which is the more interesting story in my opinion.

However, the love stories were told, parallel, without gush and over sentimentality. Not a perfect film but a good one…where’s the fun in perfection anyway?

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