After Jon Favreau’s creative declaration of bankruptcy “The Lion King” and Til Schweiger’s desperate self-copy “Head Full of Honey” comes Bora Dagtekin’s mechanical controversial comedy remake THE PERFECT SECRET (de. Das perfekte Geheimnis). We reveal what we think about it in our review.
There is also something wrong between Bianca (Jella Haase) and Simon (Frederick Lau)…
The plot summary
Dinner party among friends: The long-time couple Rocco (Wotan Wilke Möhring) and Eva (Jessica Schwarz) welcomes the friendly couples Leo (Elyas M’Barek) & Carlotta (Karoline Herfurth) and Simon (Frederick Lau) & Bianca (Jella Haase) at their place . They also hope to finally get to know Pepe’s girlfriend (Florian David Fitz). But Pepe comes alone, which initially causes dismay among his friends. But as the evening progresses, completely different emotional fluctuations arise: At the dinner table it is decided that there will be no digital secrets for this evening. Every text message, every call, every photo received – everything is shared with the entire group. It doesn’t take long for sparks to fly. Friends become enemies, relationships end up on the rocks.
The Perfect Secret Movie Meaning & ending
The Italian filmmaker Paolo Genovese has secured an unusual world record: Within just three years, his controversial comedy “Perfetti sconosciuti” has had 18 remakes (some announced, some already completed), as recorded by Guinness World Records. There have never been more remakes of a single film. The basic idea of the chamber play is also pretty catchy: three couples and one of their friends meet for dinner and spontaneously think of a game. For the rest of the evening, all calls, text messages and pictures that come into the cell phone are shared with the rest of the group. It doesn’t take long before secrets come to light that put relationships and friendships to the test. The remake “Teleioi Xenoi” was released in Greece in December 2016, a few months after the Italian original was released in cinemas, and in 2017 Spain, among others, submitted its version of the material. In this country we hardly noticed anything about all of this. But one film has crept into the German media’s attention: France’s “Perfetti sconosciuti” remake “Le Jeu – Nothing to Hide”, which is being evaluated as a Netflix exclusive title in many countries (including Germany).
Pepe (Florian David Fitz) and Leo (Elyas M’Barek) are still best friends…
Now Germany is getting its very own “Perfetti sconosciuti” version. Under the direction of the “Fack Ju Göhte” hitmaker Bora Dagtekin, the complete strangers became “The Perfect Secret”. And even if the PR machine prefers to say that “The Perfect Secret” was simply inspired by the Italian hit, it is still largely a very faithful remake. With a few strengths – and many weaknesses.
The power of ignorance that preserves film enjoyment
If you ignore the Italian original as well as the French remake, with whose look “The Perfect Secret” curiously has more in common than with Paolo Genovese’s record breaker, Dagtekin’s latest directorial work has a few entertainment points. The basic idea is undoubtedly attractive. It may lack both the malice of “God of Carnage” and the smugness of “The First Name ,” but a high density of verbal attacks and the collision of adult characters who are still looking for their place in life means that there are bound to be some Laughing while having to jump out. Furthermore, the premise has a clever double edge: in “Perfetti sconosciuti” and its remakes, smartphones are both the enablement and the downfall of double lives. For anyone who hasn’t come into contact with “Perfetti sconosciuti” or any of the international remakes, “The Perfect Secret” inevitably brings with it some well-placed punchlines. Since Dagtekin sticks very closely to the original script in the middle part for a long time, and it has some nasty punchlines, there’s little that can go wrong in this regard. And since it’s a simple exercise for his star ensemble, consisting of Karoline Herfurth, Elyas M’Barek, Florian David Fitz, Jella Haase, Frederick Lau, Jessica Schwarz and Wotan Wilke Möhring, punchlines are casual but still straight to the point To shake things up, the implementation of the dialogue jokes doesn’t go appreciably wrong either.
Sönke Wortmann, where are you?
This evening will have a sad end – in two respects!
But if you know the original Italian version and the French remake, which was filmed in a similar high-gloss look to “The Perfect Secret” and also takes place in a similarly equipped city loft, the advantages of this controversial comedy are neglected. Because the overwhelming lion’s share of the entertaining aspects of this film are not Bora Dagtekin’s credit, but the credit of the original authors Paolo Genovese, Filippo Bologna, Paolo Costella, Paola Mammini and Rolando Ravello. Regardless of whether it’s a dig at our society’s smartphone addiction, a verbal gem or a silly, biting monologue that exposes one of the characters: the set-up and punchline almost always come from the original. Several camera angles also seem to have been copied – although Dagtekin uses a different editing rhythm than the somewhat more dignified original. This brings back memories of the French version, which was more dynamic in terms of cinematography.
Looking at “Perfetti sconosciuti” and “Le jeu”, the weaknesses of “The Perfect Secret” become even more obvious. Genovese’s thieving joy in exposing his lying protagonists disappears in the German version. That would be perfectly fine if it were replaced by its own note. Like in the noble-looking but tragicomic French film by Fred Cavayé. Dagtekin’s version, on the other hand, is mechanical and soulless despite the glossy look: the camera moves calmly around the decorated dining table in the stately apartment while the characters take turns beating each other up, making fun of them or verbally slaughtering them. Well organized, no matter how heated the mood at the table may be. The image and the sound temperature? Varnished, i.e. without contour, be it dramatic, tragicomic or cynical.
What exactly does anyone have to hide here?
There is also too much caution and restraint in the acting. Unlike Sönke Wortmann, who also brought a controversial comedy remake to the cinema with “The First Name” last year, Dagtekin seems to keep his ensemble on a short leash. Where in “The First Name” the cast makes their roles their own, the “The Perfect Secret” ensemble acts largely purely functionally. Schwarz, M’Barek, Herfurth, Lau and Möhring recite their texts professionally, but they cannot put their stamp on the filmic bickering. Möhring also plays one of the few sensitive moments in this film, a loving father-daughter dialogue, with feeling, and yet due to the cinematic implementation he only dutifully hits the marks of the original. Möhring’s figure remains a construct here, it doesn’t come to life. Only Jella Haase consistently gives her role her own lively, bubbling style that only she could incorporate into it. And then there is “The First Name” veteran Florian David Fitz, who comes across as more efficient than lifelike in the first two acts. But in the last third, when the turbulent conversation between maybe-no-longer-friends focuses primarily on his role, Fitz really comes into his own and gives what is probably the best performance of his work to date. Anger, disappointment, gallows humor and partially hidden but deep hurt mix into a difficult to grasp, highly authentic chaos of emotions: within just a few minutes of the film, Fitz finally gives personality to “The Perfect Secret”, which until then had been so mechanically downplayed and told away.
It’s a shame that his exceptional performance is violently contradicted with a silly ending to the story. Dagtekin’s only notable script innovations are a prologue and epilogue added to the central dinner. Incidentally, Dagtekin retains the narrative and tonal lead-up to the original ending – like a student who copies the homework from the person sitting next to him and believes that he could deceive the teacher if he comes up with a completely different introduction and a new conclusion from the Nose pulls. The fact that Dagtekin’s toothless ending, if you are well-disposed towards him, follows the simple path of least emotional resistance, or, if you want to do him harm, reveals an uptight, regressive, dusty worldview riddled with homophobia, is clearly more annoying than the narrative breaks between it rare new and heavily adopted material.
Painted by numbers, not reinvented
Surely someone will be tearing their hair out and screaming: “Yeah, it’s just a remake, so what?” But this person is missing the point of this criticism. It is completely legitimate to tackle an existing material in a new way. And Sönke Wortmann already proved with “The First Name” last year that it “only” takes two handfuls of new ideas, a pinch of cultural adaptation and a detached ensemble to ensure that a revue of funny debates is just as good the second time around It’s as fun as the first time – if not more so. However, Dagtekin’s “The Perfect Secret” cannot be compared with Wortmann’s “The First Name”, but rather with Til Schweiger’s uncreative “honey in the head” self-copy “Head Full of Honey” , Jon Favreau’s artistic declaration of bankruptcy “The Lion King” or Sven Unterwaldt’s “Darling, you take her!” , the almost 1:1 remake of the cheerful-nasty divorce comedy “Mama versus Papa”. Unterwaldt filmed the French hit comedy, which is filled with a wonderfully mean spirit, robotically and only changed a few details – mainly to defuse the material. This is the case with “The Perfect Secret”. The viewing pleasure is largely based on ignorance of the original (or one of its other adaptations) because there are too few original ideas. And the new ideas, which are very few and far between, are as forced as they are half-baked.
In some places Dagtekin even changes the set-up, but retains the original punch lines (for example, a 20 DM wine suddenly becomes a 25 Euro wine that corresponds to the original film). This leaves the knowing audience wondering where Bora Dagtekin has gone, who used to just do his own thing with his elbows out, regardless of whether people liked it or not. Because this Bora Dagtekin here does more semi-concentrated painting-by-numbers. If it weren’t for Florian David Fitz, who puts his heart and soul into this material, “The Perfect Secret” would be the most annoying film of the year.
Conclusion: Florian David Fitz gives a touching performance with passion in “The Perfect Secret”. It’s a shame that the surroundings are a soulless, stiff remake of a great original, the director and author Bora Dagtekin pulls all his teeth at the end, so that the film ends up with a lame, if not insulting, yesterday’s ending that contradicts everything , which is what the few great scenes in the film represent.
“The Perfect Secret” can be seen in many USA cinemas from October 31, 2019.