So the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2010 has come to an end, and so has my all-too-brief first festival experience. But the Saint’s coverage can end on a particularly high note, as I was lucky enough to see the UK premiere of The Secret in Their Eyes. The dark horse victor at this year’s Academy Awards fended off competition from the likes of A Prophet and The White Ribbon to win Best Foreign Language Film. It was also by far the busiest screening I attended at the festival, easily filling up one of the larger venues. Such attention, by both the Academy and festival-goers is well warranted: The Secret in Their Eyes is a beautiful, striking, intelligent film which continues to find new ways to impress from the beginning to the very end.
The deftness with which the opening sequence is constructed makes it clear that the audience is in for a work of impressive confidence and audacity, as Benjamin Espósito (Ricardo Darín), a former detective, searches for a beginning to his novel. Drawn to write about a 25 year-old case of a vicious rape and murder, never truly resolved, Benjamin seeks inspiration from his old friend and colleague Irene Menéndez-Hastings (Soledad Vilamil), and as he recalls the details of the case, he soon becomes obsessed with finding an ending to the story.
The film has plenty stand-out moments, from a frenetic chase scene at a football stadium to the final, unconventional revelation, all played out in thoroughly believable fashion. There are also more than enough laudable performances to go around. Darín and Vilamil are the centre of the film, convincingly playing the same characters across a gap of 25 years, but it is Guillermo Francella as Benjamin’s frequently inebriated co-worker Pablo Sandoval who impressed me the most; Francella is the source of many of the funniest moments in the film, but also some of the most moving and profound. Backed by such performers, and the skill of his cinematographer, Félix Monti, director Juan José Campanella has been able to weave together a film of compelling narrative and thoughtful contemplation on justice and human passion.
The Secret in Their Eyes is due out for general release in the UK on 13 August 2010.