© Arsenal/Central

Ein Geheimnis (The Secret, Un Secret)
France 2007

Opening 18 Dec 2008

Directed by: Claude Miller
Writing credits: Philippe Grimbert, Claude Miller
Principal actors: Cécile de France, Patrick Bruel, Ludivine Sagnier, Julie Depardieu, Mathieu Amalric

Francois' childhood in the aftermath of World War II in France is slightly troubled. His mother Tania (Cécile De France) tends to be over protective, his father Maxime (Patrick Bruel) keeps his distance as if disappointed in his non-athletic son. Francois’ imaginary brother is always part of the daily routine (to the consternation of his father) as well as his friendship with the Jewish neighbor Louise (Julie Depardieu) who has a kinesiology practice across the street. Unusual things abound. Francois is baptized, although there is the presence of a large, extended Yiddish-speaking family. There is a stuffed animal stored in the attic which is taboo to play with.

When Francois is fifteen, Louise decides that he is finally old enough to learn the family secret. She tells him that his father had actually been married once before marrying Tania and that there was a son (owner of the forbidden stuffed animal). During the war, Maxime had fled the Nazis and was working in the countryside while awaiting the arrival of his Jewish wife Hannah and their son. The two, however, were deported en route and killed. Tania, his sister-in-law who had already caught Maxime's eye as far back as his wedding day, was also in the countryside, and the two found solace in each other.

Questions are left in the viewer's mind at the end of the film, but especially why Hannah let herself get caught. Why did she show the police her Jewish ID instead of her safe, fake one? Did she want to join her captured parents? Did she want revenge on Maxime whom she had seen observing Tania more than once? Or was life just too much at that point and did she not want to hide being Jewish?

The grown Francois still doesn't understand his father at the end of the film. This might represent secrets that the children of Holocaust survivors must endure, secrets that the survivors cannot and do not want to put into words. (Thelma Freedman)

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