The 2009 Argentine crime thriller “The Secret in Their Eyes” was the surprise Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film, though it was thought the well-regarded “The White Ribbon,” a German film, would win the award that year. The win marked the second time a film from Argentina won Best Foreign Film. The first win came with the 1985 film “The Official Story,” which was shown at Shelter Island Library in the fall of 2012. Both are films of substance and subtlety.
Roger Ebert noted that some films run like a tape measure and you can sense when the end is near. In “The Secret in Their Eyes” the audience lives it along with the characters as if in real, yet fragmented, time.
The film opens with the meeting after 25 years of Benjamin Espósito (played by Ricardo Darín), a retired criminal investigator, and Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil), a judge. Benjamin and Irene previously worked together on a brutal case involving a rape and murder, in which two workmen were arrested and convicted of the crime.
But Benjamin was never convinced of their guilt. Now he has decided to write a novel using the case as source material.
The film moves back and forth in time, between 1974, when the crime was committed, and 2000, when the reunion occurs, and it revisits both the crime and the unacknowledged feelings that remain between Benjamin and Irene. The cast is peopled with vivid characters, Benjamin and Irene’s co-workers and others including the husband of the murdered woman who is still obsessed with her death.
Juan Jose Campanella is the writer-director and he has created a complete, engrossing, lovingly crafted story. The stars are sublime in their roles, and although this is a serious film, with overtones of the political crises in Argentina in the earlier time frame, there are comic aspects to the story as well.
It is an extremely well-rounded and entertaining endeavor. Roger Ebert also said, “You won’t regret seeing this film. This is a real movie, the kind they literally don’t make very much anymore.”
Join other Shelter Island movie fans at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 26 in the library’s lower level Gill Patterson Community Room. Movies are best on a large screen and in the company of others!