Los secretos de sus ojos aka The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) Argentina

Juan Jose Campanella, director of 17 episodes of ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit‘ and five episodes of ‘House,’ bagged the Oscar for ‘The Secret in Their Eyes‘ taking most critics and the public by surprise since Michael Haneke‘s ‘The White Ribbon‘ and Jacques Audiard‘s ‘A Prophet‘ were thought to be sure winners. I would not have been able to honestly name Audiard as more deserving than Haneke, but what bothered me more was that until after the announcement about “Secret” was made, I had not heard much about it at all.

The film follows a decades-old murder mystery that a lawyer pursues through case evidence and eye-witnesses’ recollections. This search parallels the act of re-kindling an old un-requited love.

The narrative is elegantly structured, interspersed with flashbacks, and the suspense is pretty tightly guarded up until the end of the movie.

That said, it is ultimately more about the human heart than about cold law. It paints the social atmosphere in multiple and nuanced hues and broadly outlines the changing political times in Argentina’ history and how they shape the course of the protagonists’ lives. They are presented as people who fall into place and adjust their gait and stance to neatly fold themselves into a system that threatens to flush them out into society’s sewers and leave them to die in the case of non-compliance.

Isn’t is crazy how unfinished business of different types creeps back into our lives and demands closure? The scars of tyranny and past injustices have a way of lasting a lifetime and spilling over into succeeding generations. Violence inflicted on a person or a society always haunts.

I really enjoyed the way this simple yet profound fact is so elegantly presented. Silence conveys more than the lawyer and his old love could ever say with their eyes. That is why I found the title apt. The secrets held in their eyes are never revealed through their eyes. The secrets are in fact retained in their eyes and minds, and, for that reason some claim a lack of depth of emotion conveyed between these two old lovers. I found it powerful that their secrets and emotions are not explained to the audience. Narrative spoon-feeding that is unnecessary and diminishes the strength of the characters and plot.

The layer cake of secrets is pretty impressive as well. Everyone has them. Some want to understand their own better; others want to discover those held close to the chest by people from their past. Not only are we dealing with each individual conscience but also the effect of two or more colliding into each other. Campanella tells a unique tale that is universal in its appeal.

The tragedy is successful because the irony is complete.

The Official Movie Site–SONY