Elle (2016)

Elle (2016) – Directed by Paul Verhoeven – Starring Isabelle Huppert – Written by David Birke & Philippe Djian

Elle (2016) – Directed by Paul Verhoeven – Starring Isabelle Huppert – Written by David Birke & Philippe Djian

Paul Verhoeven directs a French Neo-Noir film based on a novel, starring Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Virginie Efira, Christian Berkel, Jonas Bloquet and even more people you’ve probably never heard of because they only work in French film/television.

Tall order here.

Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence

Huppert runs a game studio, I guess Cyanide Studio(??), I’m pretty sure it’s actually a made up company but they show footage from one of the Styx games. Anyway, that’s really just to establish that she’s in a position of some power and of some means.

In addition to that she also carries a bit of a notorious history: when she was about 10 years old her father committed a horrific crime that gained national awareness.

The public blame from that rolled onto the rest of the family and continues every time TV specials about the incident run, which they just did because her father is up for a parole hearing. In addition to public notoriety, it also apparently garnered some mistreatment from law enforcement over the years.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, because the film opens with her being attacked and raped in her home. I guess that’s kind of an important thing to note. It’s the true instigation for the events of the film.

While she sees a doctor and gets blood tests done, in addition to the usual issues with reporting rape, her prior mistreatment leads her to not report the issue and instead handle it herself, while attempting to do as little as possible to disturb the order of her life.

The film follows her as she tries to process and investigate the assault, wrap up the game, deal with her complex family issues (son and mother notably), and navigate her own love life.

All kinds of possible reasons, all kinds of possible suspects, all kinds of possible outcomes.

I feel like this is all just scratching at the surface of an incredibly complex film, it’s only 130 minutes long but it felt like an incredibly engaging three hours just because so much happens. I’m not always a fan of Verhoeven’s work, but this is him firing on all cylinders while hitting on some really uncomfortable aspects of humanity.

There is reticence to using my standard shorthand, because to say that I “loved” this feels, perhaps wrong, it is however a great film.


Ratings Legend:
☆☆☆☆ = “I hate it.”
★☆☆☆ = “I dislike it.”
★★☆☆ = “It’s okay.”
★★★☆ = “I like it.”
★★★★ = “I love it.”