His Secret Life

  His Secret Life
"So what sort of Bohemian fun would you like to have today?"

© 2001, Strand Releasing
All Rights Reserved

When HIV doctor Antonia's (Margherita Buy) husband, Massimo (Andrea Renzi) is killed in an accident, Antonia is left with memories of her 15-year marriage and a reproduction of the painting "Le Fate Ignoranti." To add to her sorrow, she discovers that her husband had been cheating on her for seven years.

As Antonia goes after the clues to find Massimo's secret affair, she discovers a whole secret life. Contrary to her expectations, she realizes that her husband had been cheating on her with a man, Michele (Stefano Accorsi). Stunned by this discovery, she is mad at Michele, who had kept quiet for seven years and who is also traumatized by the loss of his love. However, with the realization of their shared love for Massimo, Antonia and Michele become closer and closer to each other. In time, Antonia becomes almost a substitute for Massimo in the world of Michele and his Almodovar-esque group of friends.

Unlike Antonia -- who has a reserved world consisting of her judgmental mother, a Filipino maid and few coworkers -- Michele has a world filled with eccentric characters; from a Turkish refugee, to transsexuals and a bed-ridden AIDS patient. While Antonia's luxury villa is closed to visitors, Michele's bohemian penthouse is welcoming to all kinds of people. One thing that seems awkward is that apart from the bed-ridden Ernesto (Gabriel Garko) all of the quasi-habitants of Michele's apartment are lacking depth. Their problems and existences are only referred to. It is as if the rest of the characters are only there to affirm the existence of the main duo.

Toward the end of the film, Antonia matures into a more accepting and liberated person. She realizes what life has to offer and begins to go with the flow. In a way, her realization is what the film aims to deliver; life has many surprises to offer and the only way to survive is to accept and follow your heart.

Ferzan Ozpetek's "His Secret Life" ("Le Fate Ignoranti" | (IMDb listing) has a life-affirming attitude. It declares that everyone regardless of his or her sexuality, class or race is one and the same. However, while intending to portray and welcome all types of the human kind, the film fails to show the emotions that are entailed in achieving this omnibus.

Nevertheless, Antonia and Michele's personalities are truly elucidated and both Buy and Accorsi deliver their roles with great intensity and precision. "His Secret Life" offers impressive acting, luminous colors and a keen slice of life.

Filmfodder Grade: B+