Elle is completely about pushing boundaries and taking it for granted that no one will question some of it’s more alienating themes.
The internet age has propelled hate and its ill tempered side effects into the Earth’s mainstay of global conversation topics. This is largely due to the World Wide Web’s canny knack of controlling so many daily lives. It allows for the spread of hate so easily, but not just hate, also general distasteful sentiments and a sense of freedom of speech in its most underwhelming of senses. This is something that the art of film has largly left alone in the same timespan with many filmmakers choosing to push boundaries of CGI or prosthetics rather than themes or ideas. Elle however, gives even the deepest darkest corners of the internet a good run for their money.
In the opening scene, Elle (Isabelle Huppert) is raped by a masked invader, but instead of reporting it to the police or telling close relatives, she takes it upon herself to defend her livelihood. Elle carries on with her life as normal, head of a major video game company. Yet at home, she sets her self up on the defence. Now armed with weapons, she applies herself to overturn her attacker as complications from the past come back to intertwine with her present day issues.
Elle is an outstandingly bold, and outrageously bizarre film. It is a film completely based around bringing out a reaction from its audience. There is nothing brave about it, Elle is just very provocative. In fact, it could even be seen as a film set to troll. Something there to prod and poke at the public’s psyche.
Director Verhoeven has certainly overstepped the line, but that’s not to say he hasn’t found a new one further on. Elle is completely about pushing boundaries and taking it for granted that no one will question some of it’s more alienating themes.
Yet, Elle would be a completely different film without star Isabelle Huppert. Her ability to simultaneously command a room and appear so broken and changed inside, is gripping. Throughout she manages to upend any weakness and make the film about taking back power and effectively turning the story on it’s head. The 180° turn is as brilliant as it is barbaric.
Elle is a film full of messages . There’s themes of abuse, murder, death, power, relationships and public humiliation, and the way that Elle (or Huppert) deals with this is astonishing. Even if the casual viewer does feel awkward or out of place because of some of the stranger ideas Verhoeven has thrust into the limelight, the performance of Isabelle Huppert will still keep any eyes glued to her tempestuous demeanour.