The Secret in Their Eyes
This year’s Oscar winner for best foreign language film from Argentina, “The Secret in Their Eyes,” is an intriguing film centered on the investigation of the brutal rape and murder of a young woman in the 1970s. Set in 1999, the film tells the story of Benjamin, an investigator on the case, who is preparing to retire. He wants to write a novel, based on the account of murder investigation. Benjamin contacts Irene, his former supervisor. He finds that Irene, though older, is still beautiful, and rekindles his affection for her.
The movie moves forward and backward 25 years in time, as Benjamin remembers the case. As you might expect in a movie like this, nothing is as simple as it seems. Political corruption and the rise of a Facist regime in Argentina during this time hinder the investigation. The search fro justice is in the case is a continuous theme, until the surprising ending.
“The Secret in Their Eyes” is a complex film, part mystery, part romance, part political commentary. I admire its ambitious spirit, even though it does not fully succeed on all levels. The film is beautifully photographed, with some very effective scenes. In a great, intense scene, Benjamin and Irene question a prime suspect about the rape/murder, trying to coax a confession from him. Years later, Benjamin and Irene get on an elevator with the same man, in a scene of breathless suspense, worthy of Hitchcock. In a long, moving series of scenes near the end of the movie, Benjamin locates the husband of the murdered woman in 1999, and finds him still consumed with his search for justice in the case. In a surprising and disturbing way, the grieving widower has found the justice the state failed to provide.
“The Secret in Their Eyes” is a good, but not great, film. It is overly long, and, at times, confusing. Sometimes the only way I could determine whether we were in 1999 or the 1970s was by the amount of grey in Benjamin’s beard! A tighter structure would have helped the flow of the film. Extraneous scenes could have been cut, making the film easier to follow. Be advised that the film contains brief, but disturbing violence and nudity. Despite these reservations, I would recommend this complex, multilayered look at mystery, romance, and corruption from Argentine eyes.
Tom Condon, OP