FilmReview

Review: ‘Elle’ Is a Well Made Movie that Isn’t for Everyone

Samuel Kaufman ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Elle is an extraordinarily difficult movie. It’s difficult to recommend as well as criticize, understand and watch. It is difficult because it is a very well made movie that is commenting on everything from violent video games to rape culture to horror in what can only be described as strange and in a controversial way.

Elle is the latest feature from provocative Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, who also directed RoboCop and Basic Instinct. It is a psychological thriller that follows wealthy video game producer Michèle LeBlanc (Isabelle Huppert) who is violently assaulted and raped in her home by a masked assailant.

Isabelle Huppert in Elle. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.
Isabelle Huppert in Elle. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

LeBlanc deals with this event in the best way she knows: without involving the police. It is quickly revealed that when LeBlanc was ten, her father went on a killing spree in her neighborhood, murdering twenty-seven people, several animals, and burning down their house. Because of this, LeBlanc does not trust the authorities and doesn’t want to involve them in her assault.

However, this is not a rape or revenge “take-this-into-my-own-hands” sort of movie. LeBlanc fancies herself a powerful, successful, self-made woman who worked incredibly hard to shed her media image of the girl whose dad went crazy. She isn’t going to let her assault hurt her public persona in the slightest, and essentially tries to forget it ever happened and just move on.

Besides being a predictably flawed method to dealing with trauma, LeBlanc’s plan fails as she continues to be harassed by her attacker. What’s unfortunate is that most people will need multiple viewings to grasp the complex messages Verhoeven is going for in Elle, and it’s really not the kind of movie that you will want to re-watch.

Isabelle Huppert in Elle. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.
Isabelle Huppert in Elle. Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

At over two hours, the film is full to the brim with enough unanswered questions, symbolism, and social commentary to fill an entire film lecture. Huppert does a wonderful job portraying the—to say the least—complicated character of LeBlanc.

It is written by David Birke, who has done very little until this point but is currently slated to be writing Slender Man, which will be coming out next year. Thanks to Birke’s phenomenal writing, he proves to be a good fit for this upcoming horror film. His dialogue is tight, yet believable, and the pace of the script suits the film beautifully, keeping scenes from getting boring while leaving enough time to get to know characters and motivations.

This is the epitome of a festival movie – very controversial, very graphic, and very confusing. If you have seen and enjoyed—or at least appreciated—movies such as Antichrist, Funny Games, The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, or anything by Lynne Ramsay, check out Elle. Heck, write a paper on it for your film studies class. If the thought of sitting through these types of films repulsed you to the core, save yourself the trauma and the money and skip Elle. Just pretend to like it at your next dinner party.

Overall Grade: B+

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