Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
France/Italy/Germany, 2005. Azor Films, Arte France Cinéma, StudioCanal, Love Streams Productions, Albachiara, Network Movie Film-und Fernsehproduktion, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, Canal+, arte France Développement, Eurimages, Région Ile-de-France, MEDIA Programme of the European Union. Screenplay by Patrice Chereau, Anne-Louise Trividic, based on the novel The Return by Joseph Conrad. Cinematography by Eric Gautier. Produced by Patrice Chereau. Music by Fabio Vacchi. Production Design by Olivier Radot. Costume Design by Caroline de Vivaise. Film Editing by Francois Gedigier. Toronto International Film Festival 2005.
Deeply challenging but unforgettable adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s The Return. After ten years of a seemingly perfect marriage, a nineteenth-century gentleman comes home to find a letter from his wife (Isabelle Huppert) saying that she has left him for another man. Later that afternoon she returns, telling him that she won’t be abandoning him after all. This sends him on a harrowing emotional journey of self-reflection as he wonders if he can maintain a relationship that is flawless on the outside (their society is none the wiser, after all) while corrupt on the inside. Meanwhile, she is left questioning her place in her world and whether or not she even knows what it is to be alive. Patrice Chereau barely raises the sound above a hush for ninety minutes, which will aggravate some viewers, but hopefully others will enjoy being saturated in the intimacy of the experience. The photography, emphasizing deep images of cavernous drawing rooms and haunting lighting, adds a texture to the film that is priceless, but the project really rests on the actors, both of whom are superb. Putting a camera on the cinema’s greatest actress and watching her complex emotions register without the slightest evidence of effort is a reward in itself.