October 3, 2022

Directed by Paul Verhoeven (RoboCopTotal Recall), Elle is an impressive feat of filmmaking. I’m more impressed with this film than I like it, although I do still like it a lot.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven (RoboCopTotal Recall), Elle is an impressive feat of filmmaking. I’m more impressed with this film than I like it, although I do still like it a lot.

The movie opens with out main character, Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert), being raped. So y’know fun times are to be had here. Yea no. This is a dark fucked up movie, and that horrible opening moment is really just the tip of the iceberg. We only get to hear the assault at the opening (though the film does flash back to it later), the camera only shows us the Assaulter, clad all in black with a ski mask, zip up his pants and run off. Instead we see Michèle’s cat as it stares blankly and uncaring as the assault takes place. From there we watch Michèle clean up the mess. The mundanity of it has a cold realism to it. This horrible thing happened. But life goes on. As the movie goes on we slowly learn more about her past, why she’s unwilling to go the police and who she is.

The next morning at work we learn that she’s having an affair with the husband of her best friend and business partner, when he comes into her office, closes all the blinds, stands by her expectantly and she grabs a trash can so she can give him a handjob into it while they stand right there. Did I mention this movie is French? I suddenly feel like I should mention that.

She also happens to be the head of a video game developer, and we see her get in a fight with the lead designer, who thinks they need to shore up the gameplay, whereas she’s insistent that firs they need to beef up the sex appeal of a cutscene where a monster knocks a woman over a table and then shoves a tentacle into her skull. So, y’know, quality.

From there the background of the movie is Michèle trying to figure out who raped her, as she continues to get messages and threats. But the movie also spends a lot of time on establishing other characters like her mother, her father, her ex-husband, her idiot son and his pregnant wife, and her new neighbors.

What makes this movie great is how deep those relationships are, and how many threads the movie expertly juggles. There are a lot of twists and turns to this story, and not only was it never quite clear where the movie was going, I also didn’t even have a handle on where we were along the arc of a storyline at any given moment. This film had me enthralled and riveted for its runtime because the execution was so good and because Isabelle Huppert carries it so well.

This is an impressive film, and if you can stomach the rough, unpleasant material I definitely recommend it.