Un amour à taire is a 2005 French film that was originally made for television. Here’s the trailer for the film (it’s not of very good quality, but it’s the best I could find with subtitles):

A Love to Hide is billed as a gay love story set during the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1942. Sara, a Jew, has just witnessed the deaths of her parents and sister. With no where else to go, she asks her childhood friend, Jean, for help. Although she’s been in love with Jean since they were children, she soon discovers that he is gay and in a four-year relationship with Phillipe. When Jean’s brother, Jacques, is released from prison, his jealousy over Sara’s continued love for his brother leads him to commit a rash act, one that eventually destroys their lives.

I’ll start with what I didn’t like about this film: it’s entirely predictable. Once you realize that this isn’t a love-conquers-all kind of film, you know exactly what’s going to happen. From Jacques’s reappearance from jail, you know he’s trouble, despite his claims to love his brother no matter what. A little before each twist and turn in the story occurs, PJ and I definitely saw around each corner. It’s certainly not a subtle film.

But it’s not trying to be subtle. A Love to Hide is an unabashedly sentimental film — much like Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby — and it uses that sentiment to make us care for these characters so that we feel the horror as their lives and loves are destroyed by the Nazis and their collaborators. That we see each blow before it falls only makes this sentimentalism all the more powerful. By the end, we (or perhaps the original French television audience) is meant to mourn for the inhumanity inflicted by the Nazis, for the institutionalized gay bashing that so many of the French were willing to aid and abet, just as they aided and abetted the systematic genocide of Europe’s Jews.

As such, this movie is a devastating film. I can’t remember the last time I cried watching a movie; I was definitely teary-eyed by the end of this one. As a gay man, I can’t help but wonder how easy it still is for my own countrymen and women to turn a blind eye to the systematic othering of gay people in America. We’re not put in concentration camps, but it’s not really a far cry from “your love is less than ours” to “your humanity is less than ours” to “your lives matter less” to “why not criminalize homosexuality?”. I’m not generally given to paranoia, but this movie reminds us all that collaboration and capitulation can happen anytime, anywhere.

Part of what makes this movie work is the brilliant acting by the principles. Jérémie Renier plays Jean. We saw him not long ago in L’Enfant, a movie I didn’t really care for. Renier is excellent here. Louise Monot plays Sara. It is really through her eyes that we see everything that happens in the film. Our sympathy for her is therefore crucial, and Monot does a good job of keeping us on her side. Bruno Todeschini plays Jean’s lover, Phillipe, and Nicolas Gob play Jacques. Gob has the most difficult part — he’s almost completely unsympathetic in some ways, and yet I don’t think we ever fully judge him. He too is a tragic figure rather than a villain.

All of the technical aspects of the film are also excellent: the direction, the writing, the costumes, the sets, the music, etc. I was really surprised that it was made for t.v., though that explains the lack of any good sex scenes.

PJ and I are going to Paris this summer. I would now like to visit the memorial to the French deportees. The world has changed so much in 60 years, but we can never forget what happened not so long ago. The day we do is the day my latent paranoia becomes a very realistic fear. Un amour à taire is a beautiful, haunting film. I highly recommend it.

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