Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Elle (2016)

Director: Paul Verhoeven
Writers: David Birke, Philippe Djian
DOP: Stéphane Fontaine
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Laffite, Anne Consigny
Language: French

A successful businesswoman gets caught up in a game of cat and mouse as she tracks down the unknown man who had raped her.

I had recently seen Huppert in 'Things to Come' and her initial matter-of-fact reaction to the rape, which is the first scene of the film, is quite similar to how she is in Mia-Hansen Løve's film. Even though I'm familiar with Paul Verhoeven's works like 'Basic Instinct' and 'Turkish Delight', I was watching it more as a normal revenge drama. It didn't turn out to be that way and is more close to 'Piano Teacher' than '22FK'. In contrast to Piano Teacher, Isabelle Huppert's character is much more empowered in this and she had described it as a post-feminist film. I can see where she is coming from.

There are many characters in it and all of them have significant storylines in relation to the main character. We learn that the businesswoman had a very dark past and she had built her career getting over that. Even though we root for her, she is not in anyway likeable as she is quite petty and cruel to almost everyone. It is as if the rape have her even more license to be her true self.

Verhoeven pursues a Catholic church angle to one of the subplots as well, which I don't think is in the Philippe Djian's novel from which it is adapted. Verhoeven was planning to set the film in USA due to which he had hired David Birke, an American screenwriter. But they could not get it made there due to obvious reasons and decided to make it in French, his first one in this language. Huppert was the obvious choice as she had been pursuing this role even before Verhoeven got attached to it. I can't imagine any other actor playing this role and film would be very inferior without her presence. It is provocative, unpredictable and a tremendous watch, but not for everyone obviously.

Rating: 4.5/5