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It’s a house where people like to come to spend long evenings listening, looking, laughing, defending an idea and then its opposite. The advantage of being part of a social circle is that everyone knows each other well. Outbursts of frankness or excessive secretiveness, moments of doubt, or of well-founded or unfounded joy… there’s a place for everything, much to the pleasure of everyone, guests and hosts combined.
The hosts’ existence is the envy of everyone; they’re a perfect couple, their lives are a success. But, all of a sudden, the motor falters. One day, one of them leaves, and is slow to return. And when the doorbell finally rings, the world is a different place. One day, a man and a woman find themselves in the house and truly see each other for the first time. One wanted this, the other didn’t. One wants to talk, the other doesn’t. It’s difficult being together in the same house when you no longer want the same things.
Based on Joseph Conrad’s short story, The Return, Patrice Chéreau’s Gabrielle faithfully adapts the writer’s brilliant piece of prose into a visual and narrative delight. Re-creating turn-of-the-century France with superb attention to detail, Chéreau casts an unrelenting gaze on the events that overwhelm a seemingly happily married couple. In the opening sequence, Jean Hervey (Pascal Greggory) descends from a train and reflects on the sturdiness of his life, but it’s not long before his self-satisfaction is rudely shattered as he discovers a letter from his wife, Gabrielle (Isabelle Huppert). The contents of the message will cause his sense of security to crumble and plunge him into newfound feelings of vulnerability and abandonment. The combination of atmospheric settings, ardent performances, and painterly camera work makes Gabrielle a magical and absorbing piece of cinema. Description adapted from Piers Handling, Toronto International Film Festival.
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