Gilles’ Wife (2004)

“You’ll get over your little fling.”

The moody film Gilles’ Wife is the story of how one woman attempts to cope with her husband’s adultery. Set just prior to WWI in a small dingy mining town, Elise (Emmanuelle Devos) is happily married to miner Gilles (Clovis Cornillac). Together they live on the outskirts of town with their twin daughters. Life is sweet and simple, and Elise and Gilles seem happy together. That happiness is shattered, however, when Elise, who’s pregnant with a third child, begins to suspect Gilles is having an affair with her younger sister Victorine (Laura Smet). Just how Elise’s life unravels, and how she attempts to repair it is the substance of this restrained, poignant film.

Based on the novel by Madeleine Bourdouxhe, Gilles’ Wife is an intense tale, brilliantly directed by Frederic Fonteyne. Long, detailed exquisite shots juxtapose the beauty of Elise’s natural surroundings with the claustrophobic emotional suffocation of her circumstances. While the film maintains the sense of the quiet, repressed emotions of its characters, there are occasional explosions that tap the depth of the passion, jealousy and betrayal existing just beneath the surface of their lives. The camera always seems to be placed just perfectly to capture an amazing truth–there’s one incredible scene that takes place at a local dance, for example, and the camera, by shooting from behind Gilles as he stares at the dancers, captures the scene just as Elise witnesses it.

Emmanuelle Devos in the role of Elise is simply incredible. Elise suppresses her emotions in an attempt to cope with and ‘deal’ with the situation. She buries her agony and hides her sense of betrayal, but inwardly she is destroyed. Devos conveys Elisa’s complicated range of emotions–which remain unexpressed–while displaying every delicate subtle nuance of her character. DVD extras include commentary from director Frederic Fonteyne, deleted scenes, the trailer, and a “making-of-the-film” featurette. In French with English subtitles.

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