back to March, I talked about how very endearing director Juan José Campanella was on-stage when The Secret in Their Eyes unexpectedly won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. This must mark the very first time I've been sold on a film just by an acceptance speech, so I toddled along to the Tyneside on Monday to watch the film.
Benjamín Esposito is a retired legal counsellor who is fixated upon a rape and homicide case he investigated 25 years prior. He's intensely bored by retirement, left only with the memories of his working life and of an unfulfilled romance with his old boss, Irene. Borrowing a typewriter with a broken A key from his old workplace, he resolves to novelise the case, and through flashbacks, we see Esposito's pursuit of the killer as he tries to find solace in the present.
I'll get my unpopular opinion out of the way first, so we can get to the business of reviewing this truly excellent film. In my opinion, there is no doubt whatsoever that this deserved the Oscar. Some professional critics have used the statuette to beat this film with, whining that A Prophet or The White Ribbon deserved the gold instead.
Haneke's direction is great and it's all technically fine, but it's utterly lifeless and pretentious, to me. Sadly, the only professional critic I could unearth who saw it negatively was Chris Tookey, who bizarrely started musing upon how it wouldn't make a very good musical. The White Ribbon is exclusively about subtext and nothing else, whereas The Secret in Their Eyes doesn't let symbolism dominate the telling of a great story. Moving on.
Circumstances seem to conspire to prevent any consummation of the yearning between them, and Ricardo Darin is more than equal to the task of playing Benjamín. We see him in his element in the 1970s and of course he's aged up for the scenes set in the present, and he's never any less than mesmerising as he always finds himself in juxtaposition to those around him. He's obsessed with finding justice for the victim, in a state where corruption makes some justice better than none.
As with all successful foreign films, I cast my mind worryingly to the prospect of an English language remake. It especially worries me with this one because of its most beautiful flourish. If you see the end of the investigation coming, it's fine, because this is a film that demands some thought about what's going on, but that broken "A" key I mentioned pays off magnificently. I think of that heartwarming moment, and how it could never ever translate to an English language version, and I really hope Hollywood leaves this one as it is.
The Secret in Their Eyes is now playing in select cinemas nationwide, and will be available on DVD and Blu-ray in January 2011.
If you've seen The Secret in Their Eyes, why not leave a comment on the film and/or my review? I toyed with the idea of writing this one without the use of the A key, but can you imagine how the blog would look with that? "Michel By is the ultimte twt"?
I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.