Wed June 2, 2010
The Secret in Their Eyes
Seeing is believing.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time," "Cinema Classics," and "On the Marquee"
"Justice is an island. We work out in the real world."
Dateline: Buenos Aires 1974 -2000. Oscar-winning The Secret in Their Eyes trips between an Argentinean murder in 1974 and the involved justice Benjamin (Ricardo Darin) retired now and writing about the gruesome rape- homicide. Unlike in other thrillers, even Silence of the Lambs, director/ writer Juan Jose Campanella weaves a credible love story between protagonist Benjamin (and his boss, Irene (Soledad Villamil), with the love of a husband for his young murdered wife highlighting the somber effect of time, or its lack thereof, on those whose eyes may or may not hold the secret.
This intriguing and typically-slow exposition by a not-American director is a thriller of the first order?accumulation of facts and revelation of emotions while methodically nailing down the murderer, perhaps a bit like Lady with the Dragon Tattoo with a dash of Silence of the Lambs. As is to be expected of non-CGI dominated international films, character is everything, from a sidekick with a drinking problem and sacrificing heart to a murderer complex as the best cinematic murderers like Jackie Earle Haley's. The figurative importance of the eyes, burnished by multiple close-ups, is a motif that emphasizes the literate approach of the entire artwork.
In Eyes, the jumping across time is handled with a rare fluidity, helped by a graying beard on the protagonist but not helped by Ms. Villamil, who may never be able to play old because of her Sophia-Loren indestructible looks. The time mix influences the attachment we feel for characters fighting time but trying to live for the present. Especially when it comes to expressing affection, so easy to fob off on time or think like Eliot's Prufrock that "indeed there will be time," when there will be little to none.
The Secret in Their Eyes is a somewhat languid eye-opener, the cinematic equivalent of seeing Casablanca after Letters to Juliet, a variation of the sublime to the ridiculous. No matter, now and then Oscar gets it right?best foreign language film of the year. The eyes have it.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, Cinema Classics, and On the Marquee, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain