Elle by Paul Verhoeven, supported by an outstanding Isabelle Huppert, flirts with amorality, ambiguity and sexuality in a black psychological thriller.
Elle by Paul Verhoeven is Michèle, who runs a company producing violent and sexy video games. Elle, she is disconnected from her emotions, and seems cut off from everything. Elle, she knows where she is going as far as business is concerned, but her love life is miserable. One day she is brutally raped in her home. Elle, she engages in an ambiguous game, which nonetheless, will lead her to redemption.
A hooded man brakes in
With her friend Anna (Anne Consigny), Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is at the head of a successful video game company that publishes video games combining monsters, violence and sex. She lives in a villa in a residential area and one day, a hooded man brakes through the garden door and beats her before raping her. Michèle doesn’t seems to take the matter seriously and doesn’t tell the police, but buys self-defense arms.
Her immature son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet), under the thumb of his girlfriend, Josie (Alice Isaaz), will be surprised at the birth of his child. Michèle’s ex-husband, Richard (Charles Berling) starts a relationship with a young woman, Helen (Vimala Pons), when Michele’s mother, Irene (Judith Magre), plans to marry a young man, Ralf (Raphael Lenglet). Anna’s husband, Robert (Christian Berkel) rudely take advantage of her, though considering her a wilted flower.
The rapist is harassing her
Under a precise camera, Elle by Paul Verhoeven stages this cast of twitchy characters, who will twirl around the thread of this psychological thriller: Michèle chasing the rapist who harasses her by sending an SMS or by letting another kind of message in her room. Is he the source of the parody of Kronos video game in which she is abused by a monster?
Gradually, Paul Verhoeven reveals a terrible truth: Michèle’s father is in prison for life for killing 27 people (and 6 dogs!). Following the killings, he led the ten-year-old Michèle in a senseless bonfire, burning her childhood to ashes.
Soon after, Michèle endures another attack, which reveals the rapist’s identity. An ambiguous game starts between them…
A form of redemption
Elle by Paul Verhoeven would not reach its strength without Isabelle Huppert who plays marvelously a disturbed, but strong and cynical female character for who “shame is not a strong enough feeling to prevent committing anything” and who has many humorous lines.
The masochist game that starts between her and the rapist may find its origin in the trauma of his father’s crime, which affected her relationships with men. Should they be monsters to reassure her?
Does the first death of a monster put her on the path of relief, pushing her to become executioner? One might think that she causes the death of her mother in her hospital bed, as well as that of his father, who committed suicide at the announcement of her visit in prison, for her to spit her contempt.
Caused consciously or not, the death of Michèle’s parents brings a form of redemption. Even her bigoted neighbor Rebecca (Virginia Efira), Patrick’s wife, gives her thanks.
Verheoeven’s direction imposes nothing and the audience will have to develop their own understanding of this rich and complex feminine character of who refuses to be a victim of her destiny.
Twenty-four years after his global success Basic Instinct, starring Sharon Stone, the Dutch director of Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers and Hollow Man, returns to competition with an adaptation of Philippe Djian‘s novel Oh… (Gallimard – prix Interallié 2012), after a screenplay by American David Birke.
Elle by Paul Verhoeven
Competition – 2h10
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