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American Women's Club of Hamburg

The Secrets We Keep (Schatten der Vergangenheit)

star4x4

USA 2020
Opening May 27, 2021

Directed by: Yuval Adler
Writing credits: Yuval Adler, Ryan Covington
Principal actors: Noomi Rapace, Joel Kinnaman, Chris Messina, Amy Seimetz

secrets we keepIt is 1959 and Maja (Noomi Rapace) lives with her husband Lewis (Chris Messina) and their small son Patrick (Jackson Dean Vincent) in a suburb in the USA. Maja is an immigrant from Romania, who met her husband in Europe while he was serving in World War II. One day, while sitting in the park with Patrick, she sees a man who seems familiar. In fact, she is so sure that he abused her and killed her sister Miriah in a Nazi concentration camp, that she kidnaps him and brings him home to her basement, all tied up to be questioned. This kidnapping required massive strength and in the end her husband, rather surprised to see a stranger in the trunk of his wife’s car, decides to stand by her for further disclosures. He slowly learns about his wife’s past experiences, which explain her nightmares, and need for psychiatric support, of which he, even as a medical doctor, was unaware. The stranger (Joel Kinnaman) denies all accusations, claiming he is Thomas Steinmann from Switzerland. Rachel (Amy Seimetz), who lives nearby with her small children Tommy and Annabel and their dog Max, also has a problem: her husband has disappeared; the police are looking for him.

History, which Maja had suppressed for 15 years, is revealed in flashbacks, “memories of a memory,” until “all of a sudden your past is here.” Maja is not above torture to force a confession from her prisoner, whom she calls Karl. Lewis attempts to keep a reasonable footing throughout this unbelievable situation.  Rachel, who meets Maja through their children playing together, has no knowledge of Maja’s actions.

This film is excellent due to the talented actors, especially Noomi Rapace who carries the story, smoking throughout. The viewer becomes integrated into the storyline, deep in concentration, wondering: how will it end? This is not always entertaining or even easy; it is serious, heavy, accompanied by background music, which is ominous, even scary. Since opening in other countries, there is a discussion over similarities to Roman Polanski’s film Death and the Maiden and possible copyright problems. It is amazing how well director Yuval Adler projects the 1950s through fashions (Maja likes hats), cars, old television shows, etc. The film ends at an Independence Day party, July 4, 1960. ()

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