Elle (2016)

elle poster 2016 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Huppert, discussion raising response to rape

Violent rape and response to it will be hard for some viewers

Movie Info

Movie Name: Elle

Studio: SBS Productions

Genre(s): Drama/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s): May 21, 2016 (Cannes)/November 11, 2016 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

elle rapist attacker

I blame the cat

Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) finds herself the victim of a violent home invasion and rape.  Instead of going to the police, she goes about her daily life as a video game producer on the verge of the release of a new title.  When Michèle starts to receive ominous texts from her rapist, she realizes it is someone that she knows or at least knows her.  A game of cat and mouse begins, but the more shocking game might be when Michèle learns her attacker’s identity.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven, Elle is psychological thriller.  The movie is an adaptation of the 2012 novel Oh… by Philippe Djian and premiered at Cannes.  The film received positive reviews and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress (Huppert).

elle isabelle huppert rape video game

Fortunately the gaming community is more open and accepting of women and would not condone this (sarcasm)

I went into Elle expecting something very different.  I knew it was about a violent rape (which probably should be known to audiences going in…it is pretty rough and terrifying), but I thought it was going to go a different direction.  I thought it was either going to be about a woman menaced by her rapist or a woman who turns the table on her rapist by going after him…Elle falls somewhere in-between.

The biggest thing to know about Elle is that it is about an extremely broken woman who was already broken before being attacked.  Michèle is the daughter of a serial killer who had suspicion cast upon her at an early age.  She trusts very few people and isn’t afraid to display her displeasure in people from the abusive woman that her son is dating to her mother’s decision to take a young boyfriend…she says what she’s thinking.  She is having an affair with her friend’s husband (she and her friend have also had a fling at one point), she is seducing her married younger neighbor, and she doesn’t hide her sexuality despite her age.  It comes off as cold, but once again that is a perspective from a world where women are supposed to be “nurturers” and men are often cool and collected like Michèle.

elle dinner party scene

Well this is an awkward dinner party

The rape situation is a different story.  It has rattled the character, but she isn’t going to let it change her.  Michèle instead takes over the situation.  She learns the identity of the rapist and begins a strange psycho-sexual relationship which involves abuse and physical violence on both sides.  As soon as she knows his identity, his fate is in her hands.  It helps the coping which what occurred, coping with things in her life she can’t control, and gives her back the power…but it is also quite sick and dangerous.  It is a complex reaction to the event that is neither “pro-rapist” nor “pro-victim empowerment”…it is something in between which for victims could be tough to take as viewers.  It isn’t an easy movie.

elle isabelle huppert attacker

Nice of you to stop by again…

Huppert is the reason to come to film.  Her character is so complex and so layer that watching the film multiple times probably won’t give you any concrete answers on her actions.  This creates a sense of realism with the character.  To look at a person and say “oh, she’s a victim” or “I can’t believe she did that” isn’t possible in real life…getting in the shoes of another person, especially in an extreme situation like this is impossible.  An outside perspective can’t comprehend the past and events that lead to up to how a person is in day-to-day life.  People are not necessarily defined by rape but rape’s effect is defined by their life.

Elle is a film that should come with a warning.  I’m not always into “triggered” culture, but the ideas and concepts in Elle cannot be walked into blind.  Rape is possibly the most personal violation and effects everyone on different levels.  Elle is a different take on a rape which could be seen as empowering or irresponsible…but it is human in that no one can predict how they will be affected by the event.  Elle is a challenging movie that has its faults, but they are outweighed by the discussion it brings.

Related Links:

The 89th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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