Archive of films Gabrielle / Gabrielle

France / Italy
2005, 90 min

Section: Tribute to Patrice Chéreau
Year: 2009

Chéreau based his theatrical, claustrophobic story about the breakdown of a marriage (Isabelle Huppert, Pascal Greggory) on a short story by Joseph Conrad. It’s 1912 and a well-situated, conceited man cannot get his head round the fact that his wife, whom he treats as the jewel of his art collection, no longer loves him...


The most theatrical of all Chéreau’s films is a work based on the short story by Joseph Conrad "The Return”, published in 1898 in the collection Tales of Unrest; the novelist himself was clear in his opinion of his novella – he hated it. Perhaps this is the reason why he shared this sentiment with the hero of his story, an affluently self-assured and emotionally hypocritical man, whose world has just collapsed. Chéreau moved Conrad’s harrowing and cruelly melancholic study of the breakdown of a marriage to a period shortly before the 1st World War, which threatened to completely destroy the solid foundations of decoratively elegant, formalised society. Unlike the literary model, the film’s viewing angle has shifted, thus the relationship, originally seen only from the man’s perspective, acquires the balance of shared agony. Jean’s proprietarily complacent arrogance receives an unexpected blow one day when, arriving home from work, he finds a letter in which his wife informs him that she is leaving him to be with her lover. This is the woman, the pride of his "collection”, its most valuable article, whose every thought and dream he was sure he knew. However, before the shock has time to subside, Gabrielle returns... Weary of her own yearning for love and her fear of it, she now confronts her husband who, swept up in a vortex of unexpected, new-found emotion, tries to achieve equilibrium and resolution. The director enhances the astringent luxury (Césars for costume and production design) of his family microworld using a combination of black-and-white and colour film, suggestive dusky lighting and cinematic devices typical for the period; his chief instruments in this brutal, emotive vivisection are, of course, the lead players, Pascal Greggory and Isabelle Huppert.


Connaissance du cinéma
122 rue La Boétie, 750 08, Paris
Tel: +33 1 435 901 01
Fax: +33 1 435 964 41

About the film

Color, 35 mm

Section: Tribute to Patrice Chéreau
Director: Patrice Chéreau
Screenplay: Patrice Chéreau, Anne-Louise Trividic podle povídky Návrat / based on the short story The Return by Joseph Conrad
Dir. of Photography: Eric Gautier
Music: Fabio Vacchi
Editor: François Gédigier
Producer: Patrice Chéreau, Ferdinanda Frangipane, Joseph Strub
Production: Azor Films
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Pascal Greggory, Claudia Coli, Thierry Hancisse
Contact: Connaissance du cinéma


Patrice Chéreau

Film Director


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