We are 99% certain at least 49% of our readers won’t be able to identify Argentina on a map.
Well schmucks, time to beef up on your geography.
You see the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year went to an Argentine film El Secreto de Sus Ojos (The Secret in Their Eyes), a Spanish language movie we watched yesterday in the theater.
Argentina, a nation that makes barely a few dozen films a year, wins an Oscar and the acclaim of the world while India, the benighted country that makes about 1,000 movies annually, returns empty-handed to jeers and ridicule.
If that’s not the ne plus ultra of shame for the Indian movie business, pray tell us what is.
Worth the Money
By way of penitence for watching Veer, Darling, Sura and a host of other trashy Indian films, we went to see The Secret in Their Eyes.
Folks, the $6 we spent on the matinee ticket for The Secret in Their Eyes is some of the best money we’ve spent on movies. And mind you, we’ve spent a lot of moolah on movies.
Directed by Juan Campanella, The Secret in Their Eyes is a cause for celebration.
Visually pleasing, narratively gripping and supported by lively acting from the troika of Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil and Guillermo Francella,The Secret in Their Eyes is a riveting drama.
Ricardo Darín and Soledad Villamil (left)
(Image: Sony Pictures)
If you must know, the story in a broad sense is about the investigation of the brutal rape and murder of a recently married young woman in Argentina.
Although the horrific incident happened in 1974, 25 years later it still haunts the key court investigator Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) so much that he decides to write a novel about it.
Esposito has recently retired and with plenty of time on hand embarks upon the job.
The novel-writing exercise is the time machine, the ruse that director Campanella employs to journey us into the past, acquaint us with the rape, the murder, the investigation, the closing of the case and its reopening, the arrest of the perpetrator and the state of mind of the victim’s husband and above all draw us close to the characters.
But The Secret in Their Eyes is more than just the investigation of a tragic, violent attack.
The movie is also about unexpressed love of the court investigator Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) for his boss, the ‘Harvard’ educated Irene Menéndez-Hastings (Soledad Villamil), the grief of the victim’s husband, the alcoholism of Esposito’s endearing assistant Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella) and more.
All of it, including the twists in the tale, the bureaucratic in-fighting within the Argentine justice system and the back and forth of the movie between the present and of years past, are handled with such extraordinary panache that one can only watch the unfolding drama mouth agape and astonishment at the mastery of the director over the medium.
As the court investigator Esposito, Darin, of course, has the biggest role and plays his part to perfection. The easy to anger younger Esposito, eyes blazing and a five-day-old black beard, and the retired Esposito with a serious mien, a twinkle in his eyes and the grizzled beard are both easy to love.
But Guillermo Francella is no slouch in the acting department either. As the helpless alcoholic, devoted to his boss Esposito and possessing a sly temperament, Francella’s Sandoval is a delight to watch. As a frustrated Esposito struggles to nab the principal suspect, it’s Sandoval who provides the vital clue, the key that captures the killer:
A man can change everything. But there’s one thing a man cannot change – his passion.
The third leg of our actor-troika, Soledad Villamil, is as accomplished, a talent revealed no place more than in the manhood-taunting interrogation of the alleged killer.
To those of you who might dismiss The Secret in Their Eye as a mere legal thriller, the movie brims with humor, coming to the fore in the exchanges between Esposito and Sandoval, between Esposito and the judge, between Esposito and Irene, particularly in the first half.
And then there’s the crafty camera, panning wide and zooming in, indoors in the court building and the homes and outdoor in the football field and the wide out open, in broad daylight and in the dark of the night, painting an indelible picture of this amazing drama.
And how do you think the victim’s worshipful husband, the bank clerk (Pablo Rago) handled the rape and murder of the woman he loved above all?
We could tell you but then we’d be robbing you of the exhilarating joy of finding out for yourself.
The Secret in Their Eyes is playing in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and likely elsewhere too in the U.S.
You’d be a fool not to watch it.