Veteran French writer-director Claude Miller (Garde à Vue, La Petite Voleuse) revisits France’s traumatic experiences under German Occupation during World War II in this polished and suspenseful melodrama. Adapted from Philippe Grimbert’s semi-autobiographical novel, Un Secret begins in the mid-1980s, with the psychologist François (Mathieu Amalric) worried by his elderly father’s sudden disappearance and remembering his own sickly and anxious childhood in Paris some three decades earlier.
Miller and his editor Véronique Lange artfully shift between the film’s three time-periods, with the contemporary scenes shot in black-and-white and the past handsomely photographed in colour. Although documentary images, such as the newsreel Holocaust footage which François is made to watch at school are thoughtfully interwoven into the story, the emphasis in Un Secret is on the individual’s subjective experience and memory of history. We see the confusing adult world from child’s point-of-view and we witness how feelings of guilt and shame are passed down between generations. And in a strong ensemble cast, there are some fine performances, especially from Ludivine Sagnier who plays Maxime’s doomed first wife.
Filmhouse, Edinburgh from Fri 13-Wed 18 Jun.