This baroque costume drama about the demise of a perfect marriage is set at the start of the 20th century, but has a alarmingly topical message. The historic backdrop, the opulent language and the excessive styling do look a little noisy, but the almost painfully detailed mise-en-scène is a merciless arena for a refined depiction of interpersonal development. The way the theme is treated, although very different in style, can vie with the best of Bergman's work. Isabelle Huppert and Pascal Greggory are well matched in a timeless verbal and non-verbal sparring match that is no different in essence from more contemporary love tragedies. Loosely based on a short story by Joseph Conrad, Chéreau confronts a fragile yet haughty lady of the house with her arrogant and emotionally challenged husband. The foundations of their apparently successful and enviable marriage are suddenly demolished by the arrival of a letter. This is followed by a painful investigation of truths and lies. Chéreau's balanced use of colour, lighting and widescreen camera serves to augment the suffocating, negative chemistry between the two protagonists. The symphonic music of Fabio Vacchi gives the film even more dramatic grandeur. (SdH)

Filmmaker
Patrice Chéreau
Country
Germany, France, Italy
Year
2005
Medium
35mm
Length
90’
Language
French
Producer
Azor Films, Serge Catoire
Sales
StudioCanal
Writer
Patrice Chéreau, Anne-Louise Trividic
Cinematography
Eric Gautier
Editor
François Gedigier
Production Design
Olivier Radot
Sound Design
Benoit Hellebrant, Olivier Dô Hùu, Guillaume Sciama
Music
Fabio Vacchi
Cast
Isabelle Huppert, Pascal Greggory