Juan José Campanella’s El Secreto de Sus Ojos / The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) An Argentinian/Spanish Thriller

Juan José Campanella’s movie El Secreto de Sus Ojos aka The Secret in Their Eyes is an unusual thriller. It’s a Argentinian/Spanish co production, based on Eduardo Sacheri’s novel El Secreto de Sus Ojos.

The story is told in an unusual way, takes many twists and turns and offers an astonishing and thought-provoking ending.

Benjamín Espósito is a retired Argentinian federal agent. He has started to write a novel about a case that happened many years ago and that took an unsatisfactory turn. Liliana Coloto, a beautiful young woman, was brutally raped and murdered in her own apartment. Although Espósito and his colleague probably found the killer, the man was let go.

Espósito writes his novel for many reasons, one of which is giving an ending to something that didn’t have one. In order to achieve this, he revisits the case and the people who were involved.

Espósito pays a visit to the former chief of the department, Irene Menéndez-Hastings and tells her about his plans to write a novel about the case. She isn’t very keen on the idea. The case and its outcome were too upsetting. And there may be other reasons why she doesn’t want to remember what happened so many years ago.

The story of the case is told in flash backs and bit by bit we see what happened, how the people involved in the investigation lived, how they got emotionally involved in the case. Espósito cares a lot about Liliana’s husband. The man is devastated by the loss and the brutality of the crime and tries to find the murderer on his own.

In a conversation between Liliana’s husband and Espósito, Liliana’s husband says that he wouldn’t want the man to be executed. Capital punishment would be much too merciful.

I liked this movie a lot, it’s very melancholic, manages to interweave different story lines and offers a few interesting themes like writing as a means to find closure,  second chances, capital punishment and justice. The characters are very complex and interesting.

The movie is mysterious for a long time but I can assure you that everything is resolved in the end, all the loose ends will be tied together.

I’m not always tempted to read a novel after having watched a movie but it in this case I’m really curious. Has any one read the Spanish original? The English translation The Secret in Their Eyes will be out soon as well.
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30 thoughts on “Juan José Campanella’s El Secreto de Sus Ojos / The Secret in Their Eyes (2009) An Argentinian/Spanish Thriller

  1. I really, really liked this film, and you’re right, it doesn’t take the ending you expect. I plan to read the book when it comes out in translation later this year.

    • I think the French translation is out as well. I’m curious to see how he writes. I thought the movie was very well done and the actors were very good. It’s is quite complex, much more than just a thriller, if the book is like that then it will be quite something.

      • Hi! I read the book and it is not exactly like the movie. For intance:Benjamin surnames is Chaparro not Esposito; Benjamin motive to write at times seems to be to have an excuse to meet with Irene; Irene is more like a shadow in the background than a main character; most of the scenes that are played by Irene in the movie are played by Sandoval in the book; as I understand from some lines about one of the characters relatives being dissapeared I think is set during the so call Dirty War, while the movie is pre-Dirty War during Isabel Peron goberment; they explain how the murder is set free so quickly; they dont catch the guy, but is because of another thing he is brought to justice; the ending is really similar, but has one difference that I would not tell because that will spoil both movie and book; theres no train station scene; Benjamin has to exhile too by the same motives he does in the book, and here is more clear who was behind all; that character who dies in the movie, apart from Liliana Coloto, does it so in the book, but in between time lines.Well, that I think that are the biggest differences.

        I really liked your review. As I read in your other comments you kinda like movies from Argentina: The Aura, Nine Queens, Son of the Bride. So let me reccommend you a movie: Man facing southeast made in 1986 directed by Eliseo Subiela(it is really oddly too similar to K-Pax, made in 2001)And yes it is about a mental patiente who think he is an alien and about a doctor who is not having a good relationship with his family, as in K-Pax; and it also leave you with no answer, and a more bitter ending, I wont spoil any of both movies endings, but I will tell you that KPax at least gives the audience the hope for something more–and theres more in the books as I heard—, but in Man Facing Southeast theres nothing more than what its shown to see.

        • Thank you so much for your comment. It sounds to me as if the book was maybe even better than the movie. I was not so keen on the train station scene in the movie. That was the one I found a bit corny. I like the idea of her being like a shadow. On the other hand I liked that he wanted to write the novel to get closure. I will try and get hold of the Spanish version. It will do me some good as I haven’t read a lot of Spanish lately.
          I’m glad you liked my review, thanks.
          Yes, I’m very interested in Argentinian movies. Thank you for the recommendation, I will have a look and see if I can find it. It does sound as if K-Pax was a sort of remake.

          • Your welcome, keep going with the reviews.

            I dont know if is a remake, because as far as Im concerne KPAX is based in the first of a series of books.

            • I finally oredered the novel… see how that will go. I’m looking forward to reading it.
              And there will be other reviewes of Latin American movies soon.

    • No I haven’t seen it. I think it was the first time I ever saw him. I think he is a wonderful actor. While writing the review I thought I would like to see more of him.

      • He’s in Son of the Bride which I expected to be some silly tear jerker–but it wasn’t. Nine Queens is one of the best con films I’ve ever seen.The Aura is wonderful too. That’s all I’ve seen of him.

        • After what I saw of him here I would presume he isn’t the type of actor to accept a bad role. Thanks for the other recommendations… I’ll need to look them up.

  2. Thanks for spreading the word with this great review. I picked this one off the shelf at my video store without knowing a thing about it and just loved it.

    • Thanks Gavin. That’s pretty much what I did. I watched it without knowing anything about it and just thought that it was suprising that you could make a movie that was original, intelligent and touching.

  3. I saw this in Buenos Aires last year and then got in a little trouble with my in-laws after I told them I thought it was OK but kind of cheesy in parts! Ricardo Darín has been great in just about everything I’ve ever seen him in, but I thought this movie was kind of farfetched in ways I normally associate with American thrillers. Which was too bad because I thought the premise was promising. P.S. If we were neighbors, I’d gladly lend you my copies of The Aura and The Son of the Bride as well as a couple of other Argentine films I really like.

    • And I would gladly accept… Now I will have to chase them otherwise.
      I agree it is a bit cheesy in parts but it is minimal and overall I really liked it. And I really liked him. I can only imagine how good he must be in other movies…
      I must admit I haven’t seen all that many Argentinian movies.
      I don’t see how you could get into trouble for saying that… Sounds as if you were trying to kill a holy cow.

  4. I really enjoyed this film when I saw it last year. For me, it was the best film in that years’ Oscar awards…even better than the film which won Best Picture, the title of which I can’t remember right now. El Secreto de sus Ojos won for Best Foreign Language Film but it deserved more than that. I didn’t realize it was a book first.

    • It did deserve an Award which cannot be said about many movies.
      I wouldn’t mind watching it again and really would like to read the book. It’s a movie that stays in your mind. Many movies I watch are OK while I watch them but a day or two later I already start to forget them. This isn’t the case here.

  5. What an intriguing premise! I will definitely be looking out for the book when it is published in translation (or maybe try it in French). I think I’d rather start there than the movie, but then that’s just my preference for the written word. The movie does sound great.

  6. This does sound good–just the sort of story I’ve been most drawn to reading lately–too bad it doesn’t come out until the fall, but I’ve added it to my list anyway! I prefer reading the book before seeing the movie, so I’ll see if Netflix has it for later. Did you read it in the original Spanish?

  7. I had to watch this for a class, and everyone was really taken with it. The ending was just…wow. Then my mom got obsessed with Ricardo Darín and we watched a lot of his work. All I remember about El Aura though was this huge beautiful dog that looked suspiciously like a wolf. It was good, but that dog was just so beautiful. Lol.

    • Lucky to watch this in class. Although watching movies in class could spoil them for you. And the end is really… wow. Darín is a great actor. Wonder what kind of a dog that was. I love cats but I always wanted a Siberian Husky or a Siberian Malamute’s.. They look a bit like wolves. I wanted to watch El Aura anyway so maybe I’ll soon find out. 🙂

  8. Im sorry for the double answer…the computer didnt load the first comment so I wrote another and suddenly I noticed that both comments were published.

  9. I really love this movie. I had to watch this movie several times because my Spanish is abhorrent, but I loved the characters, the acting, all the symbols, and especially the crazy way they found the bad guy at a soccer game filled with thousands! I had no idea this was based on a book! I have to read it.

    • It was a movie that stood out for me. I don’t know how good your Spanish is for reading this but just in case it is now out in English. I got the Spansih version but no time to read it yet. I’m very interested to see how he writes. I think the other movies mentioned like El Aura must be very good as well.

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