There is no ‘bad’ genre in cinema or literature or music I believe. There are just good films and bad films, good books and bad books, good pieces of music and bad pieces of music. So, saying that with ‘El secreto de sus ojos’ the Academy gave this year the Oscar prize for the best foreign language movie to a telenovela (soap opera) – a genre so popular all over the world which has a special flavor in South America and especially in Argentina – should not by any means be taken as an insult.


The story line of Juan Jose Campanella’s film crosses a quarter of a century which for Argentina meant huge convulsions and transformation from the populist demagogy of the rule of the Perons in the 70s, through the brutal military right wing dictatorship  at the end of that decade and the beginning of the 80s, until the full restoration of the democracy by the end of the century. It is a complex story, involving a brutal rape and murder which is being investigated by a criminal judge which tries to bring justice at all means, in a system that seems to be corrupt and incapacitated whatever the political system of the day. he story of passion allows the authors to make a deep and convincing reflection about the relativity of justice when faced with political and human weakness. However, beyond the satisfying thriller story it is the unconsumed love story between the investigator Benjamin Esposito and his superior, judge Irene Menendez Hastings that eventually takes over. This apparently impossible love, because of professional and social circumstances, gives the whole film an air of melancholy, and Soledad Vilamil as the judge is a fascinating screen presence, of an ageless and noble beauty that reminded that shines through the whole duration of the film and gives it the deserved title. Her partner Ricardo Darin seems a little too restrained, it is exactly the passion that never changes in a man which is once referred in a key scene that seems to lack to the actor.

(video source rmflorencia)

Many of the elements remind indeed the telenovelas – the development of the action, the parallel threads, the romantic tone. There are however some differences, some in favor of the movie, other against it. There is no violin sentimental music score. There are moments of great quality in the scenes of the 70s representing bars or house interiors or the stadium, the viewer can not only visualize, but also hear, feel and the smell the period. Beyond the principal actress there is at least one more exquisite supporting performance of Guillermo Francella as Pablo Sandoval, the drunken, pathetic, and eventually heroic partner of Benjamin. Yet there is not enough time to develop all the subjects. The film at 127 minutes is too short for all threads to develop completely, the authors seem to have intended to say too much and had not enough time and space to extend, ans the result is that the dictatorship period seems to be treated in a quite superficial manner, and the story has two endings – one for the thriller and justice story, the other for the romantic thread, which do not really come together.

‘El secreto de sus ojos’ is not a bad film, quite the contrary. Having however seen two other of the films that competed for the Oscar this year, Haneke’s Das weisse band and the Israeli Ajami – I personally would not have been surprised at all if any of these two had won and not this one.