Secret in their Eyes: Interview with Oscar Director Juan José Campanella

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Interview with director Juan José Campanella

Haunting Image
 
An old man eating alone. It was that image that haunted me and finally took me back to the novel. Not the crime itself. Or the suspense. Or the genre. The Old Man eating alone. How does someone end up all alone in life? Does that Old Man wonder how he ended up eating alone in a bar with no one by his side? One can deny it, forget about it, cover it up for a time, but the past always comes back. Perhaps during the second act of his life, the Old Man managed to ignore what he had done during the first act, but if he wants to make a successful transition into the third act, he will have to deal with his unfinished business.
 
Film Noir?
 
I don’t see this as a “film noir”. The “meat”, the main dish, the driving forces behind this movie is an undeclared love that has lasted for years, frustration, and the emptiness felt by the main characters.
 
On Memory
 
Memory fascinates me. The way decisions we made twenty or thirty years ago can affect us today. This could also apply to a nation’s memories. As we now recover our memory of the 1970s as a country, we know that the horror began to take shape before the military dictatorship. The story takes place in that Argentina as the very air thickened, creeping up on and enveloping even the key players.
 
Narrative Secrets
 
My aim was to tell this story as a combination: of small beings wandering through a sea of people, among huge structures, lost in the crowd, and their eyes. The story of that man walking by a hundred meters away at the train station, with five hundred bodies between us and him. What could we learn about him if suddenly, with no cuts, we could see a close up of his eyes? What secrets would they have to tell?
 
Asking Questions
 
Secrets about a story like this one perhaps: a story about a murder, true, but above all a story about love. A story about love in its purest form. A love that ended when it was only in the bud, with no time even to fade and die. How could a love like that be lived? What effect would it have on the people involved? What acts of madness could a pair of eyes commit when love is taken away from them?
 
These are questions the film seeks to ask and which, only in the lives of the characters, perhaps attempts to find answers to.
 
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