Burning Secret is the intriguing story of a mother’s near-adultery as seen through the impressionable eyes of her 12-year-old son, coupled with the elegant setting of post-World War I Austria in winter.
First-time director Andrew Birkin (brother of France-based actress Jane Birkin) has adapted a Stefan Zweig short story [Brennendes Geheimnis] set in 1919 and previously filmed in Germany in 1933 by Robert Siodmak. Drama has some of the same elements found in Zweig’s more famous story, Letter from an Unknown Woman.
The woman is Sonya (Faye Dunaway), elegant wife of a stuffy diplomat (Ian Richardson) far older than she. When their young son, who suffers severely from asthma, is sent for treatment at a sanitorium in the mountains, the mother accompanies him.
On the first morning, the son meets Baron Alexander Maria von Hauenschild (Klaus Maria Brandauer), a charming veteran of the war. Sonya is quite willing to seize the opportunity of a passionate love affair which is only constrained by the constant presence of her innocent, inquisitive son.
Although the material is a little slight, the drama works thanks to the flawless performances. Dunaway is coolly stylish and yet passionate. Brandauer brings a touch of menace to his charming character. Young David Eberts (son of former Goldcrest exec Jake Eberts) is a find as the trusting youngster. The production was filmed entirely in Czechoslovakia, on location in Prague (doubling for Vienna) and Marienbad.