While morals and laws have drastically changed in society over the past 150 years, the line where passion crosses over into dangerous obsession, and how that consuming fixation can unravel a person’s life, is a relatable life lesson that’s still applicable today. That treacherous preoccupation is a strong, viable motivating factor in the new crime drama thriller, ‘In Secret.’ The film, which marks the feature film directorial debut of screenwriter and actor Charlie Stratton, and is based on author Emile Zola’s controversial 1867 novel, ‘Therese Raquin,’ is a candid portrayal of unbridled passion, greed and envy among ordinary Parisians. The film, which opened today in select Long Island theaters, realistically captures the themes of intoxicating lust, impulsive behavior and haunting guilt that helped make the book a controversial scandal when it was first published.
‘In Secret’ follows an obsessive love that unpredictably turn into crime and revenge in the lower society of 1860s Paris. Therese (Elizabeth Olsen) is a ravishing but sexually repressed young woman trapped into a loveless marriage to her sickly cousin Camille (Tom Felton) by her domineering aunt Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange). Now, Therese must spend her days as a virtual shut-in, confined behind the counter of a small thrift shop run by her aunt during the day. At night, Therese is forced to watch Madame play dominos with her friends. But when she meets her husband’s alluring childhood friend, Laurent (Oscar Isaac), everything changes. What begins as a thrillingly illicit affair between the inhibited young woman and her husband’s captivating colleague will turn into a shocking set of tragic circumstances for everyone when Laurent becomes determined to make Therese his wife.
Stratton and Bell captivatingly drew on Zola’s novel to create a rampant passion, greed and envy among struggling Parisians of the 19th century that’s infused with a modern and unnerving relatability. The screenwriters created an enthralling repressed young woman in Therese, who desires to be accepted as a respectable woman in Paris society. But she’s also struggling with her ever-increasing sexual passion as she tries to contend with the lack of expressed love and desire from her cousin.
The scribes kept the challenging relationship between Therese and Camille suspenseful and intriguing as they introduced the growing tension and passion she begins to feel with Laurent. While the two tried to initially suppress their romantic feelings for each other, the unraveling and admission of their true emotions infused the story with a stimulating sense of self-indulgence they satisfyingly refused to keep hidden.
Stratton smartly cast Olsen in the lead role of a sheltered, timid adolescent who captivatingly transforms into a fiery adultress. While Therese knows she faces repercussions from both the law and her aunt if anyone uncovers her illicit affair with Laurent, the actress emphasized her character’s desire to finally receive love and passion from someone who appreciates her. The former Independent Spirit Award-nominated actress perfectly embodied the moral complexities of the repressed young woman, who doesn’t have any family besides Camille and Madame, or any opportunities to grow in society on her own. So Therese understandably is not only drawn to Laurent for the endless passion and attention he offers her, but also the potential to offer her a better life in Parisian society.
‘In Secret’ also enticingly shows the passion that drives Therese to commit the illegal act of adultery through the costumes created by famed designer Pierre-Yves Gayraud, who is known for working on such historical films as ‘Albert Nobbs’ and ‘The Three Musketeers.’ He created authentic, character-driven dresses for the struggling debutant, including a traditional crinoline that Therese wore in the countryside before the family moved to Paris. When the Raquins first move to the city, Therese begins wearing a more fashionable crinoline in vibrant blues and greens, which reflect her desire to emerge in society. But the lively dresses that reflect her true beauty are soon replaced by black, to represent her unease at how her life is actually progressing, and how she is still unhappy in her relationships.
Stratton’s enthralling feature film directorial debut effortlessly showcased the ever-increasing repressed desire hidden within Therese as she tried to find happiness in her unfulfilling life. Olsen was the perfect actress to capture and portray the ever-growing passion buried within Therese, who realized she had to go after what she wants in order to break free from her sheltered upbringing. Combined with the unique, inspiringly designed costumes from Gayraud, who created distinctive clothing for Therese’s ever-changing feelings and outlook on life, ‘In Secret’ is a relatable, modern spin on the struggles of a young woman looking to break free from her repressed standing in 1860s Parisian society.