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The Secret in Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sheila Seacroft   
08 09 2010

ImageDirected by Jose Campanella

Winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in a strong year where contenders included such big hitters as Haneke's The White Ribbon and Audiard's Un Prophete, this terrific thriller from Argentina grips likes a vice and involves for its entire 2hrs 10 mins, thanks to taut direction and some very accomplished acting.

Ricardo Darin is Benjamin Esposito, a retired state prosecutor still haunted by two intense experiences from the past: one concerns the events surrounding a corruptly handled rape case which changed the course of his career, and which he is now attempting to write a book about. This brings him again into contact with his beautiful superior Irene (Soledad Villamil), for whom he nursed a never declared love. Darin, already a face known to UK audiences from the disturbing El Aura and the entertaining scam movie Nine Queens, has a compelling screen presence and a face which can express the most nuanced of emotions. The ‘secret' of the title is one of hidden passions, in the significant instance here it's revealed in an unguarded glance in a photograph, but it applies to many looks and expressions throughout the film which can be recognised perhaps by us the audience if not by the protagonists themselves.

The crackling narrative never slackens, but like the best noirs it is has an intensity beyond the sheer need to know the how and the why and what happens next. ‘You cannot change your passion' is a key to unlocking the secret of the case and to the shocking denouement, and from the opening shots it's two men's passions for the women they lose that form the core of the film. Along the way there's a splendid performance by Guillermo Francella, a noted comedy actor in Argentina, as Espinosa's tipsy and slightly dotty colleague who brings a real and touching depth to what at first seems purely light relief.

Camerawork is crisp and sometimes exhilarating, with a spectacular tour de force at a football match, when it swoops from high above the city down into a night-time stadium and right into the heart of the spectators, were it hands over to a hand-held, jolting pursuit through the sweaty, pulsating crowd. The plot unravels itself in a most satisfying and shocking way, through a terrible darkness that's seen as inevitable given the depth of love involved. See it.

Seen at Tyneside Cinema Newcastle, 27 August 2010

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