I know: there are plenty of great flicks made in the USA. I am a binge watcher and American movies have filled lots of my empty evenings. They made me laugh, cry, think.. the full package.
What I have a problem with, are the remakes of foreign movies and TV series. I had promised to myself, after watching the American version of (in random order): The killing, The Bridge and The girl with the dragon tattoo to always stick to the original version. What was wrong with them? Technically, very little. Emotionally, a lot. All of them lacked this feeling of claustrophobia in the middle of endless lands, this dichotomy of oppression and vast spaces the original Nordic versions had. The silences, the underlying loneliness, the dry dialogue, the long pauses: all gone.
Let’s be clear: Americans are not the only ones who did it. I am still in the process of forgiving Kenneth Branagh for how he played Wallander: I mean, Kenneth, he is a diabetic, cynical policeman, dealing with an ill father and an estranged daughter, entangled in a not so promising relationship with a woman who lives thousands of kilometers away, I cannot look at him and expect every 5 minutes that he pulls a skull and start wondering whether to be or not to be. NO.
Oh, I am digressing now. I was saying, I promised to myself not to watch remakes again, but we are all very good at doing the same mistakes over and over again – aren’t we? – so I did it again and went for “The secret in their eyes”.
Before I proceed further, let me set the records straight. Did I watch it with some doubts based on my previous experiences? Yes. Was I a bit skeptical considering that both the original book and movie are among my favorite books and movies? Yes, I was. Guilty of all charges.
So what’s wrong with it? No, let me start with what is right (somehow).
- The acting: each and every actor performs perfectly, individually. Julia Roberts makes a realistic impersonation of a devastated and still strong woman, Nicole Kidman plays her part spotlessly, and so does the rest of the cast.
What’s wrong? Basically everything else..
- The ensemble performance: if individually the cast is great, put all together they kill any possible chemistry. Take Nicole Kidman, for example. Nicole, you meet again the unforgotten love of your life, why do you act like he is a customer and you a post office employee putting stamps on envelopes and waiting for 4 o’clock to go home? In the original version, the tension between the 2 main characters was so thick that you could cut it with a knife. All the unanswered questions, all the “what ifs” of their lives manifested without words.
- The setting; the original one didn’t elaborate much on the context of the ‘old’ part of the story. However, it was clear that Argentina, where the story is based, was not living a happy phase of its history – rather one of the gloomiest ones. I see the effort to do something similar in the US version, by introducing the terrorism into the picture, but it just doesn’t work. It is not the same. It is too exposed, to blatant, to reiterated.
- The story itself: the original version, and even more the book, are perfectly crafted stories (even when they diverge). It is not a super-police-squad story. Actually, what makes the story compelling is that is a sad, dramatic, traumatic, ordinary story, of ordinary lives shattered by an extraordinary and gruesome event. It is a story, like I said before, where little action and many regrets are displayed. It is a story of imperfect people, who never deliver empowering speeches; by contrary, is a story is unspoken words, in many ways.
- It is difficult to follow. The original one is also flashback after flashback, but it managed to be, somehow, linear. I consider myself an average intelligent person, and with the US version I found myself rewinding more often than I wanted just to understand what was going on.
- This descends from the first point: you don’t feel for the characters. The original movie made you feel for all of them to a deep level: the victim, of course, her husband, the culprit too, and also for the other characters. You could see a bit of yourself in all of them, you would genuinely wonder “who is innocent? what is the concept of proportional punishment? what are the chances I missed in my life?” all in a split second.
Bonus “what was wrong” points:
- Michael Kelly with hair
- One of the characters looks like an old boss of mine whom I still despise.
So, America, keep on doing your great, original movies I love to watch! In the meantime, go to your room and watch El secreto de sus ojos. Or even better, read the book. You will thank me later.