Sunday, April 25, 2010

"The Secret in their Eyes": In Argentina, a former detective rediscovers his life through trying to write a novel

There have been a number of films framed by the idea of writing a novel or screenplay about something in “real life”, but the winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009, “The Secret in their Eyes” (“El secreto de sus ojos”) is a humdinger of a film noir. Filmed and set in Argentina (also filmed in Spain), directed by Juan Jose Campanella, the “film noir” worked for me, getting me to identify with the lead character Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) who, now deep into middle age, wants to solve the problems of his life by writing.


He is making attempts to scribble the beginning of a novel – I wondered why with pen and paper and then an Olivetti typewriter, when computers were well established by 1999 when the present day of the film is set.

The story moves into flashbacks, back in 1974, when Ben is working for the courts and is working on a rape and murder with many elements, including a possiblly jealous even if grieving husband Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago), and develops an attraction to Irene Menendez-Hastings (Soledad Villamil). Unsatisfied with the cops, he finds some old pictures and identifies an unusual young man Gomez (Javier Godino) who gets tracked down in a sensation scene in a soccer match. He is “teased” into confession, but instead of going to jail he is recruited to become a hit man by the Argentine right wing.

Ben now tries to solve the rest of his mysteries by speculating as to what would happen with such a situation, and tracking down the facts by his own investigation, out on to the Argentine pampas.

The film (shot in widescreen with the unusual aspect ratio of 2:20:1) looks big, bringing us a slice of life in what looks a lot like California, and has a brooding music score with what sounds like the slow movement of an unknown, Liszt-like romantic piano concerto (apparently by Emilio Kauderer).

Some of the other important films which embed the writer's life include "Stranger than Fiction", "Adaptation", "Sunset Boluevard", and especially "The Dying Gaul".

Sony Pictures Classics has a website for the film here.

The large auditorium with curved screen at the AMC Shirlington in Arlington VA was about half full Sat first evening show, with a lot of audience laughter (as with the "tease" scene) and applause at the end. Some people compare the film to the work of Alfred Hitchcock.

Bing gives a torrent download for the movie, which I would not recommend for legal reasons.

Here’s a YouTube interview with the director from BlackTree

No comments: