The Secret In Their Eyes Is A Dud

I saw the Academy Award winning film El Secreto De Sus Ojos, The Secret In Their Eyes last night, directed by Juan Jose Campanella.  I have to say I was disappointed.  My wife, a native Spanish speaker, thought maybe I got lost in translation.  But I don’t think so.  I just didn’t get it.  I understood most of the Spanish and was following along easily with the subtitles.  The thing is, nothing about the film appealed to me.  Well, one thing – the eye shots.  That was the most interesting and perhaps only interesting thing about the movie.

The film begins as a retired court officer named Esposito begins to write a novel about a gruesome murder case he investigated some 20 years earlier, a disturbing case he cannot forget.  As the novel unfolds, Esposito reveals his love for his newly appointed boss, Irene, an Ivy League educated woman of means who is considered an “untouchable” that is to say, out of his league.  As the retired Esposito recounts how he solved the murder mystery and tracked down the perpetrator with the help of his alcoholic friend Sandoval, he begins to regret not acting on his passion for Irene.

The camera work focused on the actors’ eyes which conveyed the characters true feelings and often contradicted the words spoken.   This aspect of the film was the only redeeming quality for me.  I found nothing else very interesting or captivating.  The acting was ok, but the casting was awful.  The chemistry between Irene and Esposito was not there and that there seemed to be a 20 year difference in age between the two didn’t help.

The setting could have been anywhere.  I didn’t get the feel for Argentina  except in the Spanish accents – I know Argentine Spanish when I hear it.  There weren’t many mate (the national drink of Argentina) references either.  The characters drank coffee mostly.  It was a period piece set in the early 70’s but there was nothing very 70’s about it, though maybe it was more 70’s to a Argentine than to me.

The writing was mediocre, not what I expected from an Argentina with such a rich literary tradition.  Nothing Cortazar-like in the script.  The drama was not suspenseful, even as the ending did not end the way I predicted it would.  The ending by the way was just silly – right out of Jane Eyre.

Maybe I did get lost in the translation.  But I think the director failed to translate what he was after to the Big Screen.  If you are interested in things Argentine, here’s a secret – grab a copy of Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch, pour yourself a cup of mate and lose yourself in some terrific writing.