In Secret, the new movie adaption of Zola’s Thérèse Raquin starring Jessica Lange, Tom Felton, and Elizabeth Olsen premieres today. The novel tells the scandalous story of adultery in 19th century France. When Thérèse is forced into a loveless marriage, her world is turned upside down upon meeting her husband’s friend. The two enter into an affair that has shocking results.
Does the film stay true to the original? Compare this clip from the Toronto International Film Festival and an excerpt from the Oxford World’s Classics edition of the novel below, and let us know what you think in the comments.
One Thursday, when Camille came home from the office, he brought with him a tall, square-shouldered fellow whom he pushed through the door with a friendly shove.
‘Mother’, he asked Madame Raquin, pointing to him, ‘do you recognize this gentleman?’
The old woman stared at the tall fellow, searched through her memory, and drew a blank. Therese looked on placidly throughout the whole scene.
‘What!’ continued Camille. ‘You mean you don’t recognize Laurent, little Laurent, the son of old Laurent who had such excellent fields of wheat, over Jeufosse way? … Don’t you remember? … I used to go to school with him; he’d come round to fetch me every morning from his uncle’s house nearby, and you always gave him bread and jam.’
Madame Raquin did suddenly remember little Laurent, though it seemed to her that he had grown rather a lot. It was a good twenty years since she had last seen him. She tried to make up for not having recognized him sooner with a flood of recollections and motherly endearments. Laurent had sat down, smiling gently, answering in a clear voice, and looking around him calmly, quite at his ease.
‘Would you believe it,’ said Camille; ‘this character has been working at the Orleans station for the past eighteen months, and we only recognized each other for the first time this evening? It just goes to show what a big, important company it is!’
As he said this, the young man widened his eyes and pursed his lips, as proud as could be that he was a small cog in such a big machine. He went on, shaking his head:
‘Of course, he’s doing all right, he is, he’s got qualifications; he’s already getting fifteen hundred a month. His father sent him to college to do law, and he’s even learned how to paint. That’s right isn’t it, Laurent? … You’ll stay to dinner, won’t you?’
‘All right,’ replied Laurent, making no attempt to decline. He put down his hat and made himself at home in the shop. Madame Raquin hurried off to look after things in the kitchen. Therese, who had not yet said a word, looked at the newcomer. She had never seen a real man before. Laurent, tall, strong, and fresh-faced, filled her with astonishment.
She stared with a kind of wonder at the low forehead, from which sprung black bushy hair, the full cheeks, red lips, and regular features which made up his handsome, full-blooded face. Her gaze lingered for a while on his neck, which was broad and short, thick and powerful. Then she became lost in contemplation of the huge hands, which he kept spread across his knees as he sat there; their fingers were square and his clenched fist must be enormous, capable of felling an ox.
Laurent was of true farming stock; he had a rather heavy, stooping gait, his movements were slow and careful, and his face wore a calm, stubborn expression. Beneath his clothes you could make out the well-developed, bulging muscles and the firm, solid flesh of his body. Therese looked him up and down with great curiosity, from his fists to his face, and a little shiver ran through her when her glance settled on his bull’s neck.
Camille got out his volumes of Buffon and his penny instalments, to show his friend that he too was studying. Then, as if in reply to a question he had been asking himself for some time, he said to Laurent:
‘By the way, you do know my wife, don’t you? You remember my little cousin who used to play with us at Vernon?’
‘Of course. I recognized Madame at once,’ replied Laurent, looking Therese straight in the eye.
This direct gaze, which seemed to pierce her to the core, made the young woman feel almost unwell. She gave a forced smile and exchanged a few words with Laurent and her husband, before hurrying off to help her aunt. She was quite unsettled.
Émile Zola was the leading figure in the French school of naturalistic fiction, of which Thérèse Raquin is his earliest example. His works span an extraordinary panorama of mid‐19th‐century misery, poverty, and the violence of human instinct.
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