“I love her as a collector does his most prized possession,” says Jean (Pascal Greggory), a wealthy publisher in belle époque Paris, of his socialite wife Gabrielle (Isabelle Huppert). But his arrogant self-regard is punctured when he discovers a letter written by her, admitting to an infidelity with an unnamed lover.
Adapted from a story by Joseph Conrad, and confined within an opulent mansion, Gabrielle isn’t your average period chamber drama. Director Patrice Chéreau (Intimacy) explores the emotions that overwhelm characters usually governed by social convention. It’s highly stylised – arbitrary shifts from colour to black and white, text blown up onto the screen, a discordant classical score – and Huppert and Greggory give powerfully contrasting performances: he blusters, rages and disintegrates; she retreats into herself, using silence as a weapon to win her freedom.