The Underworld energy of Pluto is alive and kicking in In Secret, which blurs the line between physical and moral disintegration in mid-1860s France.
Based on Émile Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin, the movie, written and directed by Charlie Stratton, lays out life-and-death matters from the start. Thérèse, an illegitimate child, has been saved by her aunt Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange), a stern woman fraught with other deathly concerns. Her son Camille, about the same age as the young girl, is a sickly child with a consumptive cough. Madame makes the pair share a bed, a habit that continues into their older teen years. The young-adult Thérèse (Elizabeth Olsen), winds up as something of a health aide – a “guardian angel,” Madame calls her – to the now grown Camille (Tom Felton).
Madame, not surprisingly, takes on the Plutonic archetype full force through her control over her son and niece, whose living arrangement becomes a death-in-life scenario for the young woman. Through pressure from this Devouring Mother, Thérèse marries Camille, who comports himself with an air of sexual depletion – the antithesis of raw, passionate, Mars-Pluto maleness.
To his credit, Camille remains ambitious and secures employment in Paris. And in that big, filthy city, Thérèse finds everything her husband lacks in the person of his childhood pal and now co-worker Laurent (Oscar Isaac) who’s fit, lusty and persuasive. It doesn’t take long for Thérèse to enter mistress territory and an Underworld of her own, as she and Laurent do away with Camille. The duo’s murderous deed, as is typical with Pluto retribution, eats them alive and fuels the culprits to increasingly eye each other with suspicion, especially about money – Pluto’s mythic underground stash of filthy lucre figures in here.
In Secret ably, consistently and gracefully depicts the multi-downward spirals associated with hellish activity and the buried secrets that Pluto invariably reveals at the most inopportune times. Mercury, which rules thinking, colludes with Pluto. Madame never strays from thinking about her vulnerable son’s close proximity to death and his subsequent real demise. In parallel fashion, the lovers plot and then effect death, with their thoughts eventually destroying them mentally and then some.
Astrology Film Rating: ☿♇ (Mercury, Pluto)