'The Secret in Their Eyes': The Humor's Lost in Translation

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Sony Pictures Classics


While you will enjoy The Secret in Their Eyes as I did, it could have been much better. As I stood at the door waiting for the next performance of the Argentinian film to begin, I asked those leaving the theater what they thought of the movie. The responses were "brilliant," "outstanding," and "wonderful." One woman said she didn't think I would enjoy it to the fullest, because I wouldn't understand the colloquialisms. She was right. The audience clearly consisted of a Spanish-speaking contingent that laughed out loud on a number of occasions when the English subtitles conveyed nothing humorous.

The film, located in or near Buenos Aires, contains a number of flashbacks not clearly identified as such so there is some confusion. It takes place in the early era of the Peron fascist dictatorship. While Eva and Juan Peron are not depicted in the film, the presence of a dictatorship is displayed by the actions of police bureaucracy in a rape and murder case.

Shortly into the movie, a very graphic rape occurs. The woman pleads for her assailant to stop, but he continues and ultimately kills her. The murderer is not identified and the case is closed until a detective, Benjamin (Ricardo Darin), decides to write a book on the unsolved murder over the objections of the police department. Benjamin's former superior, Irene (Soledad Villamil), a rich, cultured and beautiful woman who is in love with him, decides to help. So too does his very funny, alcoholic buddy, Sandoval (Guillermo Francella).

How they identify the murderer, pursue him, and get him to confess to the crime is fascinating as it unfolds. The corruption of the police department by the fascist government of the Perons causes Benjamin to leave the city and go into hiding for 25 years before returning to Irene and her bewitching smile. When the couple reunites, they appear not to have aged during their years apart. More of Eva and Juan Peron and the impact of fascism on the society would have added to the movie. Nevertheless, it is a good ride, but not a great one.

Henry Stern said:

This movie was reasonably entertaining. It deserves the Academy Award it won for best foreign film the way Barack Obama deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

The film jumps backward and forward in time. It mixes tragedy, drama, comedy and farce, which shows it does not take itself too seriously. Everyone Else ended so abruptly that I thought the director ran out of film. This movie was the opposite. There were about five fades to black before the credits began to roll.

The protagonist is an obsessed schlemiel until he turns out to be right. His sidekick is a pitiful drunk, one of the few remaining stereotypes that can be ridiculed.
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Ed Koch was mayor of NYC from 1978 to 1989. He's credited with restoring fiscal stability to the city and creating affordable housing. He's also a film buff. More

Mayor Koch saved New York City from bankruptcy and restored the pride of New Yorkers during his three terms as mayor from 1978-1989. He restored fiscal stability by placing the city on a GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Practices) balanced budget. He created a housing program that provided more than 150,000 units of affordable housing and created New York City's first merit judicial selection system. Prior to being mayor, Mr. Koch served for nine years as a congressman and two years as a member of the New York City Council. He attended City College of New York from 1941 to 1943. He was drafted into the Army his last year of college and served with the 104th Infantry Division. He received two battle stars and was honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant in 1946. He received his LL.B. degree from the New York University School of Law in 1948 and began to practice law immediately thereafter. He is currently a partner in the law firm of Bryan Cave LLP and hosts a call-in radio program on Bloomberg AM 1130 (WBBR). Mr. Koch appears weekly on NY1 television and is the author of ten autobiographical books.

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