Wednesday, November 3

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, November 03, 2010 7 comments
Getting out from under a work deadline has been incredibly freeing. And so has committing myself to NaBalWriMo, my experiment in "filling up" in a period of burnout.

I got in a bike ride with hobbit girl yesterday and she was quite impressed, since I haven't ridden in over a decade. That old adage about never forgetting how to ride is totally true. My muscles were remembering all my best bike memories. The summer between eighth and ninth grade, for example, I biked 10 miles nearly every day going to visit my BF Becky and her new horse, Chess. I liked to imagine my silver 10-speed was a dapple grey gelding named Strider. Unlike Chess, he never tried to throw me. Chess was green-broke, and I don't know what Becky's parents were thinking buying such an animal for a 14-y0.

But I digress. And I have to say it's an exceptionally good sign I'm able to do so. A week ago I was so fried, I could not have called up a memory from that era.

I did some quality writing yesterday on a scene I've been stuck on for ages. As Anne Lamott said, sometimes you just have to try things. Four hundred words later, I feel like energy is coming back in this project I'd begun to despair about.

Film time with hubby was the most surprising part of the day. We'd had this Argentinian Netflix pick "The Secret in Their Eyes" sitting around for two weeks unwatched. The fact it was about a writer researching and writing a novel appealed to me. The description on the sleeve was rather offputting, though:

"A startling discovery comes to light for retired Argentine criminal investigator Benjamín Espósito (Ricardo Darín) as he pens a biographical novel about the unsolved case of a young newlywed's brutal r*pe and murder years ago. Past and present intertwine for Espósito and colleague Irene Menéndez Hastings (Soledad Villamil) in director Juan José Campanella's Oscar-winning character study in which justice, pain and love collide."

I generally avoid movies with the word "brutal" anywhere in the description. I have to say, however, that this film approached a heinous crime with such sensitivity and emotional beauty. What matters is how deeply concerned the protagonist is with seeing justice served for the victim and the husband she left behind.

As a writer, I was especially interested in the protagonist's grappling with the aesthetic and ethical implications of fictionally "doing justice" to this case that has haunted and shaped his life.

The cinematography draws you in right away. Arty scenes suddenly cut to Benjamín crossing out lines and crumpling pages. He tries opening after opening--something I could totally relate to, even if my genre isn't crime fiction.

The film switches back and forth in time. In the present, a retired Benjamín writes and researches his novel and tries to make sense of his past. In flashbacks, younger Benjamín the legal counselor gets drawn into a case that is bungled by his superiors. He and a colleague (to whom he's obviously attracted) work to solve the crime and bring the killer to justice.

Justice, and how it is intertwined with love and fear (and love with fear) becomes the thematic thread linking the case, Benjamín's novel and Benjamín's search for meaning as he enters old age. Several very clever literary leitmotifs echo among the story lines. In the end, Benjamín must learn to reinterpret and re-narrate his own life. It's a powerful picture of how writing shapes the writer.
Have you tried something new lately? What pleasant surprises have resulted?


  1. Ooooo, this post is full of goodies. Congrats on working through the stuck scene and feeling energized. I hope to go there soon.
    And the movie really intrigues me. Like you, I steer clear of brutal, but this sounds amazing. Thanks.

  2. Great post, Laurel. I love discovering something beautiful in unexpected places.

  3. I loved The Secret In Their Eyes. A beautiful film and a wonderful screenplay. The surprise at the end is great.

  4. Sounds like a great film--thanks for the review!

  5. The bike ride sounds wonderful! I love doing things like that . . . having the memories all flood back.

    New things? Hmmm . . . maybe I need to try some of that.

  6. Tricia: I wrapped up that scene today and am fighting with every fiber of my being to just let it be and not revise! Argh. The film I was surprised to discover is in many ways a love story! Hope you check it out. It is excellent (and the brutality is pretty brief).

    Roxy: Discovery is always so energizing.

    Melissa: Indeed the ending was fabulous--especially the tie to the broken typewriter. Hubby and I both sat back and said WOW!

  7. Elle: Your writerly self will be drawn right in from the get-go. It's such a great film.

    Janet: Muscle memory is a very strange thing. I suddenly felt decades younger once I started pedaling my new bike.