Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: In Secret

Effectively economical adaptation of Zola's Thérèse Raquin results in a handsomely produced, highly satisfying psychological thriller.

Feb 20, 2014

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1394508-In_Secret_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Emile Zola's dark study of murderous adultery, Thérèse Raquin, has been filmed a number of times over the years, most notably by Marcel Carne in 1953, with the great Simone Signoret in the title role. Now comes Charlie Stratton, helming his own adaptation and casting Elizabeth Olsen as Thérèse, the poor girl who is forced into a marriage with her sickly cousin Camille Raquin (Tom Felton) by his domineering mother (Jessica Lange). The couple go to live in Paris and run a ladies' boutique, where Camille's dashing friend Laurent (Oscar Isaac) and Thérèse become entwined in a love affair so claustrophobically passionate that they plot to do away with her husband.

Stratton rather strips the novel to its essence, which turns out here to be very film noir-ish and, as such, makes for some highly gripping fare. He captures the stifling bourgeois atmosphere and close physical quarters which would drive quite mad a girl like Thérèse, whom he has established early on as a deeply passionate soul, masturbating as she spies on a sweaty country stud. The period décor and details are as good as anything in the contemporaneous The Invisible Woman—high praise, indeed—with the settings and costumes looking authentically lived in as well as aesthetically pleasing. The lighting in Thérèse's shop is so dark you wonder how any of her lady clients can actually see the fancy dry goods they are purchasing, but this is as it should be, historically speaking. Stratton also apprehends moments of beauty, especially in regard to Olsen with her singular, slightly amphibian prettiness, and effectively loads on the tension as her illicit relationship intensifies.

As stated, Olsen is a fine camera subject and strikingly conveys the seething inner frustration, and also rather cryptic nature, of Thérèse, endowing her with an innate and fascinating mystery. Although his death scene effectively evokes the famous similar incident in Dreiser's An American Tragedy (and all of its movie iterations), Felton isn't able to do much more with Camille than wanly cough and then make ghost-like dream appearances from the afterlife, but I appreciated Isaac's underplaying as Laurent. He doesn't overdo the character's seductive allure, nor does he go in for obvious, mustache-twirling villainy. The veil really drops but once, and that single, suddenly revealing look of steely, murderous determination in his eyes is enough to telegraph Laurent's sociopathic complexity.

It is left to Lange to fully deliver the human substance, and I am happy to report that, after nearly four decades of screen acting, this superlatively intuitive histrionic powerhouse is more potent than ever. She invests Madame Raquin with a depth which goes beyond Zola to his novelistic superior, Balzac, taking her from starchy, middle-class primness to a near-psychotic mournfulness over her son and, finally, a post-stroke catatonic, yet still ferociously alert-in-the-eyes, terror-filled watchfulness of the desperately guilty and dangerous couple. Her always inner-directed acting approach is the exact opposite of that of Meryl Streep, who builds her characters, with all their accents and mannerisms, from the outside in. That Lange should be so particularly good here should come as no surprise: This is lethally erotic terrain with which she is highly familiar, with its parallels to James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, where, for the first time, her startlingly fierce acting chops were fully released on the screen. Adding additional, gratifying vividness are two proven, genius character actors, Matt Lucas and Shirley Henderson, as an amusingly stuffy couple who are her closest, card-playing friends.


Film Review: In Secret

Effectively economical adaptation of Zola's Thérèse Raquin results in a handsomely produced, highly satisfying psychological thriller.

Feb 20, 2014

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1394508-In_Secret_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Emile Zola's dark study of murderous adultery, Thérèse Raquin, has been filmed a number of times over the years, most notably by Marcel Carne in 1953, with the great Simone Signoret in the title role. Now comes Charlie Stratton, helming his own adaptation and casting Elizabeth Olsen as Thérèse, the poor girl who is forced into a marriage with her sickly cousin Camille Raquin (Tom Felton) by his domineering mother (Jessica Lange). The couple go to live in Paris and run a ladies' boutique, where Camille's dashing friend Laurent (Oscar Isaac) and Thérèse become entwined in a love affair so claustrophobically passionate that they plot to do away with her husband.

Stratton rather strips the novel to its essence, which turns out here to be very film noir-ish and, as such, makes for some highly gripping fare. He captures the stifling bourgeois atmosphere and close physical quarters which would drive quite mad a girl like Thérèse, whom he has established early on as a deeply passionate soul, masturbating as she spies on a sweaty country stud. The period décor and details are as good as anything in the contemporaneous The Invisible Woman—high praise, indeed—with the settings and costumes looking authentically lived in as well as aesthetically pleasing. The lighting in Thérèse's shop is so dark you wonder how any of her lady clients can actually see the fancy dry goods they are purchasing, but this is as it should be, historically speaking. Stratton also apprehends moments of beauty, especially in regard to Olsen with her singular, slightly amphibian prettiness, and effectively loads on the tension as her illicit relationship intensifies.

As stated, Olsen is a fine camera subject and strikingly conveys the seething inner frustration, and also rather cryptic nature, of Thérèse, endowing her with an innate and fascinating mystery. Although his death scene effectively evokes the famous similar incident in Dreiser's An American Tragedy (and all of its movie iterations), Felton isn't able to do much more with Camille than wanly cough and then make ghost-like dream appearances from the afterlife, but I appreciated Isaac's underplaying as Laurent. He doesn't overdo the character's seductive allure, nor does he go in for obvious, mustache-twirling villainy. The veil really drops but once, and that single, suddenly revealing look of steely, murderous determination in his eyes is enough to telegraph Laurent's sociopathic complexity.

It is left to Lange to fully deliver the human substance, and I am happy to report that, after nearly four decades of screen acting, this superlatively intuitive histrionic powerhouse is more potent than ever. She invests Madame Raquin with a depth which goes beyond Zola to his novelistic superior, Balzac, taking her from starchy, middle-class primness to a near-psychotic mournfulness over her son and, finally, a post-stroke catatonic, yet still ferociously alert-in-the-eyes, terror-filled watchfulness of the desperately guilty and dangerous couple. Her always inner-directed acting approach is the exact opposite of that of Meryl Streep, who builds her characters, with all their accents and mannerisms, from the outside in. That Lange should be so particularly good here should come as no surprise: This is lethally erotic terrain with which she is highly familiar, with its parallels to James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, where, for the first time, her startlingly fierce acting chops were fully released on the screen. Adding additional, gratifying vividness are two proven, genius character actors, Matt Lucas and Shirley Henderson, as an amusingly stuffy couple who are her closest, card-playing friends.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Fanny
Film Review: Fanny

"Classic" is a word all too casually bandied about, but for Daniel Auteuil's screen adaptation of this beloved French trilogy it is completely apropos. More »

Alive Inside
Film Review: Alive Inside

Incredibly moving and powerful documentary about combatting Alzheimer's with music. Without the use of a single CGI effect, you see literal miracles happening here. More »

A Five Star Life
Film Review: A Five Star Life

With a lot of travelogue-type footage and some introspection, director Maria Sole Tognazzi’s A Five Star Life finds a new angle to the women’s issues we thought we already settled, or at least had enough of for now. More »

Aftermath
Film Review: Aftermath

Imagine Night of the Living Dead, then take away the zombies and add radiation sickness: The result would be something like this claustrophobic post-nuclear apocalypse tale about how quickly civilized people revert once civilization is gone. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sex Tape review
Film Review: Sex Tape

Couple's homemade porn circulates on the web in an R-rated comedy that wastes the talents of its stars. More »

The Purge: Anarchy
Film Review: The Purge: Anarchy

A modest but noticeable improvement on its predecessor, The Purge: Anarchy offers a more effective—if still far from ideal—realization of the series' killer premise. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here