An exploitation film that proceeds as if it were a solemn memorial, “The Secrets We Keep” doesn’t do right by the Holocaust history it invokes — or much else. In small-town America around the turn of the 1960s, Maja (Noomi Rapace), a Romanian housewife, spots a stranger whom she believes participated in the assault and murder of a group of women that included her and her sister near the end of World War II.
But after kidnapping the man and holding him at gunpoint, with plans to execute him in a pre-dug grave, Maja loses her nerve and brings him home. There, she imprisons him in the basement and demands a confession. The man (Joel Kinnaman) says his name is Thomas, that he is Swiss, and that Maja must be confused about his identity. (“North by Northwest,” in which Cary Grant is mistaken for someone he is not, is one of two titles glimpsed on a marquee, in what may be the movie’s idea of a thematically relevant shout-out.)
Maja’s husband (Chris Messina), a doctor, doesn’t know what to believe, especially since Maja has never revealed her wartime experiences before. The claustrophobic scenario cuts mighty close to Ariel Dorfman’s play “Death and the Maiden,” the main difference being that Maja, when not pouring liquor down her prisoner’s throat or severing his finger, befriends his sleepless wife (Amy Seimetz), who has her own questions about her husband.
Despite the occasional flashy camera move, Yuval Adler (last year’s “The Operative”) directs with an apparent determination to remove color and light from his imagery. The police and the neighbors demonstrate impressive cluelessness, without which the unearned ending wouldn’t make sense.
The Secrets We Keep
Rated R. Violence past and present. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. Opening in select theaters. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters.