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Cooper, S.H. (2017). The Secret in Their Eyes: Vicissitudes of Inhibition, Grief, and Working through. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(5):1475-1481.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(5):1475-1481

Film Essays

The Secret in Their Eyes: Vicissitudes of Inhibition, Grief, and Working through

Steven H. Cooper

Adrienne Rich (1978) begins a very powerful poem with the words: “Each conversation begins with a lie.” One could easily argue that she is providing a poet's translation of Freud's basic insight that we can only partially know ourselves at any given moment and in any particular conversation with another. Beyond this universal propensity for dissemblance, perhaps it also captures how we each have secrets, secrets in relationship to ourselves and to others. While our unknowing is bedrock, we each have built in conscious and unconscious needs for privacy (Ogden, 1989, 1991) and the illusion of privacy (Cooper, 2008, 2016) just as we have needs to be known.

The Secret in their Eyes, the Argentine crime thriller directed by Juan Jose Campanella (2009), is a kind of catalogue of the meanings of secrets. Throughout the film, secrets conceal the vulnerability of two people who love each other who are inaccessible to one another for various reasons related to their life circumstances, class differences, and their own neurotic inhibitions and fears. Secrets conceal murders and punishments that have occurred or will occur. Secrets are the order of the day in a fascistic government where coercion and suppression of opinion are lynchpins of government function. Secrets concretize many things from the quotidian to the unusual that will not fit neatly into civilized discourse.

In early development, secrets allow children to remain attached and hold on to their parents while developing and cultivating separateness through experimentation and play with sexuality, aggression, and desire. I will suggest that in certain ways the protagonists in the film, Benjamin, a criminal investigator, and Irene, a criminal judge, are child-like members of a pathological family. They hold secrets of love for each other, the result of inhibition and failure to grieve loss while the family at large, the fascistic government, encourages suppression of affect, play, and desire. As adults, despite their considerable inhibition, each are able to successfully work through elements of their grief and inhibition. Morales, the bereaved husband of his murdered wife and his wife's murderer, Isidoro embody different kinds of pathological grief reactions that I will explore.

Film Noir, Thriller and Ghost Story

Benjamin, a retired Buenos Aires prosecutor, broods over a life of disappointments and lost opportunities.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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