7:30 PM, 21st February, 2017
As this movie opens, you are confronted with the sounds of heavy breathing and moving bodies. It sounds like a sex scene, but there’s a hint of aggression to it. Eventually the horrifying reality is revealed – a woman is being raped by a masked intruder.
Director Paul Verhoeven has decided to film a script that does not let anyone off easily. It’s basically a psychological study of how one woman responds to this assault. However, the response is most probably going to be not one you expect. She doesn’t report it to police, nor does she seek bloody revenge (the two Hollywood standard storylines after a rape is committed).
Elle is one of the best films I saw last year. At its centre is a mesmerising, Oscar-nominated performance from the always great Isabelle Huppert, playing a character who herself is far from an ideal human being (the dinner scene later in the movie is one to behold). You never really know whether she is a plucky survivor, an absolute psycho or a woman so scarred by childhood trauma that she responds to everything life throws at her with a resolute calm. Verhoeven seems to be channelling fellow European provocateur director Michael Haneke (this actually reminded me of The Piano Teacher, also starring Huppert). And it’s also quietly, wickedly funny.
Look, if Power Rangers is the movie you are most looking forward to in this semester’s programme, then this isn’t the movie for you. But, for everyone else, Elle is a must-see.