BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
MAY 17, 2014
Sexual repression in the 1860s is not a subject matter often discussed, but in Charlie Stratton’s adaptation of Émile Zola’s scandalous novel “Thérèse Raquin” (1867) titled “In Secret”, this tale is given a shot of rejuvenation thanks to its young and aspiring cast. Elizabeth Olsen is enough reason to view any film these days, with impressive control over her deliveries and a look that allows her into almost any role. The fact that she has just surfaced as a viable actress (seeing as her sisters were childhood actresses) is astonishing to me and leads me to believe her best performances lie ahead. Playing the title character, Thérèse, whose father drops her off with her aunt Madame Raquin (Academy Award-nominated Jessica Lange) at a very young age. As they grow older, the assumption that Thérèse will marry her first cousin, Camille (“Harry Potter” star Tom Felton) grows stronger, but his sickness and general lack of interest in the female sex leaves Thérèse wanting more, a hyper-sexual type that is found masturbating in a field to a shirtless man early on in the film.
When they move to the city and meet Camille’s childhood friend, Laurent (“Inside Llewyn Davis” lead Oscar Isaac), Thérèse’s sexuality blossoms, pining for the suave artist whose words alone carry her to the brink of orgasm. As one would expect, an affair transpires, eventually leading to the question of what happens next. Does Thérèse remain in a loveless, sexless marriage with Camille? Or does she run away with Laurent? What transpires is along the lines of a Shakespearean tragedy, with everyone playing the roles perfectly. Olsen and Isaac have great chemistry, even after their characters shift into darker versions of themselves. Felton continues to play an excellent villainous character while Lange plays the overbearing mother with a fervor she was made for. Clad with spot-on period set design and costumes, the setting looks to step out of a Charles Dickens novel, playing rich and dark on-screen. Continuing the sexual presence in period films following recent releases like “Hysteria”, “A Royal Affair”, and “A Dangerous Method”, there is something so satisfying about seeing these otherwise dignified people from the experience the same emotional and stimulating responses that occur in this day and age, with little to no change apart from the fallout that happens afterward.
February 21, 2014
by Émile Zola
(for sexual content and brief violent images)