The Secret In Their Eyes (El Secreto De Sus Ojos)

YEAR: 2009

WRITER & DIRECTOR: Juan Jose Campanella

BUDGET: $2,000,000 (estimated)

GROSS (USA): $6,207,191

if The Secret In Their Eyes sounds familiar it may be because you watched the academy awards earlier this year and saw this film win the oscar for best foreign language film. it beat out my pick, The White Ribbon and at the time i was a little surprised because i thought The White Ribbon was a good film and it seemed to have all the "hype" behind it (what with also getting a cinematography nod and having a director with a name behind it - michael haneke).

well don't call me surprised anymore. having just seen The Secret In Their Eyes i can tell you that the academy voters definitely made the right choice.

the film takes place in buenos aires in 1999 as retired argentinian federal justice agent benjamín espósito is writing a novel, using an old closed case as the source material. the case happened 25 years ago and it is one that he has never been able to forget. the film cuts back and forth between present day (1999) and the mid-70s as events unfolded.

while the case is at the heart of the film, this isn't a whodunit. in fact the mystery of the crime isn't that complicated nor is it the focus of the movie. really the crimes effect on the characters is what matters here. from esposito to his friend sandoval, their boss irene (who he has been in love with for 25 years) and the victims husband.

it was interesting, because it doesn't take them that long to figure out who actually committed the horrific crime. and as i watched, part of me wondered what the rest of the film was going to be about once they caught the guy. how would they drag out the rest of the film and what would be the point. well, the point was these characters and their relationships to each other and their search for some kind of truth and justice. there is no dragging here. and the film is also just so wonderfully put together.

from a pure technical view point the direction and editing are brilliant. the way campanella made many of the transitions between the scenes from the 70s and 1999 was sublime. in one scene irene and esposito are talking on the phone late at night in 1999 and he asks her is she wants to talk some more. she replies that no, she will just make some tea and try to fall asleep. cut to her hand stirring a tea cup in 1975.

that is just one obvious example and it might sound a little corny, but trust me when i tell you it is seamless and beautiful and it would sometimes bring a wry smile to my face in appreciation of some edit or transition that worked perfectly while also kind of being a little wink at the audience asking, "did you catch that?" the great direction and editing brought to mind another film that also does the back-and-forth many years apart thing so well. the french canadian film Le Confessional from director robert lepage.

juan jose campanella co-wrote, directed and edited The Secret In Their Eyes and he obviously had a strong vision (no pun intended) for this film, which he beautifully managed to capture in what has been presented to us, the audience, in the final product up on screen.