An uncomfortably close look into a woman’s life which leads to a deeply unsettling character study.
OVERALL SCORE – 4.75/5
Elle is a 2016 French psychological-revenge-thriller-comedy-drama-and so much more directed by Paul Verhoeven (Yes, the man who made Robocop and Showgirls), written by David Birke based on the novel Oh… written by Phillipe Djian and stars Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Christian Berkel, and many other character actors. The film explores the life of a woman after a traumatic event takes place in the opening scene of the film.
Elle is a film that took me by surprise. I knew what the basic premise of the film was before I started watching it but nothing could prepare me for how uniquely the story was going to unfold. It took me a few hours of letting the film marinate before I could even write this essay. I understood I had watched something exceptional but I could not put my finger on why it was so exceptional. It took me a whole lot of reading to understand the themes of the film and the direction it was taking before I could form a full opinion of my own. I’m convinced that this is not a movie for everyone and it is bound to polarize the public at large. The review that’s coming up does not do the film any justice as I am yet to fully articulate my thoughts about the film.
Elle, as a story, does not ask for sympathy. It does not have a lead character who bawls out crying after traumatizing events because that is just not who she is. There are no characters who are undeniably good in this film similar to how there are no undeniably good people in reality. The movie deceives the audience by giving them a false of knowing and just as quickly throws them off the trail by jamming a monkey wrench in between the gears. The lead character herself is very reminiscent of ball-busting boss-bitches that most people have experienced. The ones who go seemingly go about their jobs and lives with total control and confidence. No problem can shake their aura and with good reason. Erika Berger from The Millenium Trilogy is the closest link I can find to the lead character of this film (It’s not even a worthwhile comparison, to be honest). There is something about how this film trusts the audience, by giving them a wholly fresh take on a woman, that is enthralling. The sheer audacity required to tell a story like this is commendable. It may split the audience right down the middle but it is a story that needs to be told.
The film is a meditation on consent and how the word and its meaning can be shifted in many different ways. The whole film plays out like a bureaucratic power struggle. No instance is too big or too small to assert dominance. This struggle for assertion forms the basis for what non-consent or consent truly means when sex is in the picture. The desire of certain people to be the so-called “top” in a sexual encounter depends on how much control the sexual partner has over the act as a whole. The film explores this to an uncomfortable degree with a myriad of sexually liberated and sexually repressed characters.
I take a liking to characters who are not the shining beacons we all aspire to be. They seem more real because they make mistakes, are petty, hold grudges and have deep-lying emotions and issues. This film is chalk full of those characters. The way the film is shot is supposed to make the audience feel like stalkers invading the private space of this woman. We are uninvited guests. We are made to look into a highly personal and volatile excerpt of this person’s life and the relentlessness grip the film has on the audience does not let them look away even when they feel uncomfortable.
There is a lesson to be the learned here about the mentality of modern humanity. It does not paint this in broad strokes by pointing fingers but it does show the audience that different trains of thought are real and looking closely at a certain person’s life might shine some light on the viewer’s life and thought processes as well. I can say with complete confidence that I did not understand everything the film was going for. A few years down the line, when I am more mature, I may grasp more and that is surely more than enough to warrant the high praise this film gets from my end.
OVERALL SCORE – 4.75/5
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