Judge Clark Douglas prefers to keep his love in the open for the entire world to see.
"She hated my touch. I knew it."
Alessandro Capone's Hidden Love is approximately 85% insightful and truthful, 10% misguided and dull, and 5% artificial rubbish. The misguided and dull 10% does little to damage the film, but the rubbish 5% absolutely destroys it.
Our story centers on Danielle (Isabella Huppert, I Heart Huckabees), a middle-aged French woman who recently attempted to commit suicide. She is now spending much of her time in personal therapy with the kind-hearted Dr. Dubois (Greta Scacchi, Beyond the Sea) and slowly works up the nerve to talk about the events in her life that led up to this suicide attempt.
Danielle is troubled and full of self-loathing, and has been for a very long time. When she was a young woman, she met a very kind man who treated her with nothing but warmth and kindness. Danielle was bothered by his faultless chivalry, describing his behavior as, "violent tenderness." As a means of getting "revenge" on her lover for this behavior, Danielle stopped taking her birth control pills and became pregnant.
Danielle's relationship with her daughter Sophie (Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds) has become particularly strained in recent years, but Danielle felt a measure of hostility towards Sophie from the beginning. Danielle felt indifferently towards Sophie during her early childhood and described her as an, "ugly, not-so-pretty girl" during those years despite evidence to the contrary.
Huppert skillfully depicts Danielle as a woman absolutely determined to prevent herself from achieving happiness while simultaneously convincing herself that everyone else is attempting to keep her from happiness. She does not feel she deserves a good-hearted lover or a beautiful child, so she finds ways to regard her lover as violent and her child as spiteful. The film's battered beauty is in the manner it not only depicts Danielle's self-destruction but the way she obliviously eats away at the lives of those around her; pulling everyone close to her into a vortex of hatred and drama.
The script is observant and the direction is sensitive, but none of this stuff would be half as potent without the depths of personal horror Huppert conveys in her performance. Literally wringing her hands and rubbing her fingers against a table until little flecks of skin begin to peel off, she is the personification of a woman constantly punishing herself. It's a performance worthy of much praise, but the film's curiously narrow final perspective seems to rob her work of its power.
Greta Scacchi brings an understated humanity to her role, but she has little more to do than sensitively listen to Huppert and provide honest yet less-than-revelatory responses to her patient's concerns. The aforementioned misguided 10% of the film is comprised of scenes which further attempt to flesh out Scacchi's character, demonstrating how Danielle's worldview is eating away at the seemingly unflappable therapist. This is intended as another demonstration of how Danielle unintentionally hurts everyone around her, but it seems both forced and undercooked in this case. Still, it's not a big deal.
Now, about that terrible 5% of the film: unfortunately, it's the ending. It's not just a bad conclusion to an otherwise worthy film; it's the sort of terrible ending that almost completely destroys the potency of what preceded it. Without giving anything away, let me say that it's a cheap, narrow-minded attempt at turning a film built on deep pain into a cutesy, feel-good, easily digestible experience. What a spectacularly bad move it makes. It's a conclusion so wrong-headed that I can't even recommend the movie; though Huppert's fine work should not go unnoticed.
The DVD transfer is fine, sporting solid detail and impressive depth. This is a visually simple film, mostly taking place in very modest sets and using a minimum of actors. A little flavor is added by the black-and-white flashback sequences, but these are similarly simple. The audio is solid enough, with an oddly jittery, largely atonal score by Riccardo Fassi and Lawrence "Butch" Morris adding a sense of artful unease to the whole affair (though the music also turns syrupy by the conclusion). Supplements include some behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes, a trailer, TV spots, and a stills gallery.
Hidden Love is by no means one of the worst films I've seen lately, but it nonetheless proves to be one of the least satisfying. File this one under, "much less than the sum of its parts."
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Epoch
• Deleted Scenes
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