France, 1942, during the occupation. Philippe Gerbier, a civil engineer, is one of the French Resistance's chiefs. Given away by a traitor, he is interned in a camp. He manages to escape, ... See full summary »
As the Allies sweep across Germany, Lore leads her siblings on a journey that exposes them to the truth of their parents' beliefs. An encounter with a mysterious refugee forces Lore to rely on a person she has always been taught to hate.
14-year-old György's life is torn apart in World War II Hungary as he is sent to a concentration camp where he is forced to become a man, and learns to find happiness in the midst of hatred, and what it really means to be Jewish.
In 1953, a sensitive French boy finds out from a neighbor that his family's Jewish. François Grimbert becomes a physician, and gradually peels the layers of his buried family history which resulted in his difficult upbringing, raised as Catholic by his "Aryan" appearing parents. His athletic father labored to stamp out stereotypical Jewish characteristics he perceived in his son, to keep the family's many secrets, as most relatives fought in World War II, and later were hauled off to labor and death camps by the Gestapo. Based on a true story. Written by
not everything works, but when it does it's some riveting, tragic stuff
One of the big achievements of Un Secret which must be noted is that the director, Claude Miller, doesn't entirely sympathize with his characters or make them out to be all completely good Jews. They're not. This is a film concerning the holocaust that doesn't just make a blanket statement like "Nazis = Bad". No, there were Jews who were in denial, and tried to cloud over the horrible fact that was upon all of Europe, and indeed it's when the film takes its most dissecting view at the flaws of these characters that the veneer is stripped away of completely innocent people being swept up in the maelstrom. While Miller obviously acknowledges and shows the horror of anti-semitism in France (one brief scene in a classroom showing Night and Fog is especially startling) and of the rise of Hitler, he puts his eye on the Grinberg family and what really happened between François Grimbert's parents (name changed when he was a kid) before and during World War 2.
Miller's approach with Un Secret is a tricky one structurally, and it doesn't quite find it's footing until a third of the way into the film. He tries to find a back-and-forth-and-back form of dealing with three periods of time: 1930s, 1950s/1960s and 1985 when everybody is older and it turns to black and white (an opposite touch that works, for a moment), and it's only effective in about the first five minutes. I became wary of those sudden jumps to the 1985 portion of the film, where we see an old Maxime Nathan Grinberg (Patrick Bruel) grieving over the loss of his dog and his son trying to find him, and found it didn't strike anywhere near as well as the 50s scenes. On top of this, after all of the film has ended, that huge chunk of the film with the focus on that first marriage of Grinberg's with Hannah and his very obvious but eventually-acted-on infatuation with Tania (very sexy Cecile de France) was far more effective dramatically and tonally than anything else in the film.
This is not to say Un Secret doesn't cast a very fascinating look into this particular boy's lack of perspective and of his father's determination to compete on a physical level with the Germans, to almost "be" one in a perfectionist sense athletically, and how this one secret is part of scarred memory, attachment to one's faith and religion and who they are, and love and lust. The cast is generally excellent, with Bruel, De France and Sagnier delivering work with nuance and exquisite, painful emotions that resonate from one into the next scene (Sagnier is so good she gets us to feel repulsed, or at least taken completely aback, by what she does while in hiding). And the moods of joy and despair in a Jewish family circa 1930s and 1940s- and the subsequent self-imposed shame of people in Europe even after the war ended- is captured with some real power and accuracy.
But Miller also can't completely fix together his narrative; he feels the need to jump around as if it will create a really intriguing rhythm, where if he stepped back and told it without sudden jumps or surreal bits like the "brother" in the boy's bedroom at night the film would benefit. There is also a lack of a real resolution; the 1985 scene just didn't cut it for me as far as an unspoken father/son thing, and despite it sounding conventional a confrontation of the boy to his parents might have brought something more interesting than the uneven subtlety of the ending. A lot of this is so hearth-breaking in its true dimensions and probing of the subject that the only real disappointment is how it doesn't fell... complete with itself.
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