Sunday, March 2, 2014
Chéreau’s bold, theatrically stylized adaptation of Conrad’s short story “The Return” begins as a lavish turn-of-the-century period piece, with a dinner party thrown by a wealthy bourgeois couple (Pascal Greggory and Isabelle Huppert) who appear to be a model of stability and propriety. When Huppert suddenly announces her intent to leave the marriage, Gabrielle takes an abrupt turn into more painful territory. The film becomes a wrenching confrontation during which layer after layer of psychological armor is dismantled and tossed aside; in the end, all that’s left is a man and a woman, with their two radically opposing visions of love and happiness. Chéreau, his actors, and his wonderful cinematographer Eric Gautier take their material to dizzying heights and terrifying depths, eventually arriving at a level of emotional grandeur worthy of Strindberg or Bergman.