Argentina's impressively executed "El Secreto de Sus Ojos" ("The Secret in Their Eyes"), a complex crime-investigative drama, with strong moral and personal touches, emerged as a surprise Oscar winner of the 2009 Best Foreign Language Film.
"Secret in their Eyes," directed by Juan José Campanella, topped Isarael's "Ajami," Peru's "The Milk of Sorrow," Frances "The Prophet" and German's "The White Ribbon." "White Ribbon" and "Prophet" had generated most of the buzz during awards season, as both films had won top awards at the Cannes Film Fest, in May, where they received their world premieres.
Boasting a wonderful ensemble, "Secret in their Eyeys" stars Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Javier Godino, Guillermo Francella and Pablo Rago. It won the Goya Awards in Spain and has become the second highest grosser in Argentinian history with over $8 million.
The movie played in the Special Events section of the 2009 Toronto Film Festival 2009, as well as in the Official Section of the 2009 San Sebastián Film Festival. The estimable Sony Pictures Classics is the U.S. distributor.
The protagonist of the increasingly engrossing tale is former Buenos Aires state court criminal investigator Benjamin Espósito (popular Argentinean actor Ricardo Darin). Benjamin is recently retired but he is not at peace with himself—an event of the past continues to haunt him. A twenty-five year -year old case, which resulted in many lost opportunities, still preoccupies his memories and his life. As a result, he decides to write a novel about the case, which altered the course of his life in the hopes of finding closure after years of uncertainty.
Alternating between past and present, "The Secret in Their Eyes" proceeds to tell the story of a 1974 brutal rape-murder of a beautiful twenty-three year old woman and Espósito’s attempt to solve the case.
In the course of the investigation Espósito is struck by the victim’s husband, Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago), a young bank employee whose singular love and devotion for his wife only puts into question Espósito’s own obsession with his newly appointed superior Irene (Soledad Villamil), a beautiful and upper-class sophisticate with a law degree from Cornell.
Espósito and his quirky partner Sandoval (Argentina’s renowned comic Guillermo Francella), whom he must often rescue from drunken escapades – identify and track down their suspect, Gomez (Javier Godino), and with the help of Irene secure his confession. But just as the case seems to be over and Espósito is on the verge of revealing his feelings for Irene, his life begins to unravel. In Espósito’s moral and zealous pursuit of his target, he makes enemies, and puts his life at risk just as Gomez is prematurely released from jail and becomes an agent of Argentina’s repressive secret police. Fearing for his safety, Espósito must quickly leave Buenos Aires, leaving Irene behind without being able to profess his love for her.
In the course of writing his novel, Espósito re-enters the long forgotten case and Irene’s life, attempting to uncover the fate of the killer and the victim’s husband. He knows that this is the only way for him to be able to complete his story and have a new chance at fulfilling his life, reaching a satisfying closure of sorts.
What's impressive about the film, which is splendidly acted by all around, is that it's effective on any number of levels, as a suspenseful crimer, as a morality tale, and also as a personal journey of a decent man who, in order to come to terms with the present, needs to visit a painful past that involves not only him but many others.
"The Secret in their Eyes" the second Argentinian film to win the Foreign Language Oscar following "The Official Story" ("La Historia Oficial"), starring Norma Alejandro, in 1985.
Jose Campanella's comedy "Son of the Bride" ("El Hijo de La Novia") was Oscar-nominated in that category in 2001.
Benjamín Espósito (Ricardo Darín)
Pablo Sandoval (Guillermo Francella)
Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil)
Ricardo Morales (Pablo Rago)
Director JUAN JOSÉ CAMPANELLA
Screenplay EDUARDO SACHERI, JUAN JOSÉ CAMPANELLA, based on the novel “La pregunta de sus ojos” by Eduardo Sacheri
Producers GERARDO HERRERO, MARIELA BESUIEVSKY, JUAN JOSÉ CAMPANELLA
Executive producers GERARDO HERRERO, VANESSA RAGONE
Associate producer AXEL KUSCHEVATZKY
Production manager MURIEL CABEZA
Director of photography FÉLIX MONTI
Art director MARCELO PONT
Costume designer CECILIA MONTI
Make-up LUCILA ROBIROSA
Hair stylist OSVALDO ESPERÓN
Sound editor JOSE L. DÍAZ OUZANDE
Editor JUAN JOSÉ CAMPANELLA
Music FEDERICO JUSID