The latest incarnation of "Thérèse Raquin," Emile Zola's 1867 novel of lust and murder, arrives not as a bodice ripper but a bodice unbuttoner. Aiming for the screw-tightening tension of noir, writer-director Charlie Stratton lands in a murky region of the gray scale with "In Secret," a film rich in atmosphere but emotionally as blunt as its title.
With varying degrees of success, Elizabeth Olsen,
The film quickly traces the unhappy formative years of Thérèse (Olsen): raised by her controlling aunt (Lange) and forced into marriage with the ailing Camille (Felton, in a convincing departure from "Harry Potter" villain Draco Malfoy). Camille is obviously too feeble and clueless to satisfy Thérèse, whose hungers are made evident as she watches a shirtless farmer wield a scythe.
By the time painter Laurent (Isaac) enters Thérèse's life, the facts of her oppression are clear. But much as Stratton's adaptation (working from a play by Neal Bell) is devoid of suspense, his main character's despair and awakening are delineated rather than felt.
Olsen has a few powerful moments but mostly comes across as too modern while Lange subtly navigates a range of emotions before diving into borderline camp.
If the fatalistic story unfolds with a disappointing directness, it looks great. Stratton, production designer Uli Hanisch and cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister have steeped the action in the gorgeous, grime-filtered gloom of pre-electricity Paris. It's a fine (if sometimes overpowering) fit for a story that finally plays out like a weird, passionless death trip.
MPAA rating: R for sexual content and brief violent images.
Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes.
Playing: In general release.