By Angela Stevens
“Elle” is a French film that takes viewers to uncomfortable depths while exploring the darker aspects of human nature.
“Elle” begins with the sound of a woman named Michele (Isabelle Huppert) being sexually assaulted by a masked intruder.
After the assault, Michele closes the ajar door to her house, cleans up the mess from the assault and takes a bath. She never shows any visible emotion even when she nonchalantly tells her closest friends and ex-husband (Charles Berling) that she was raped and will not go to the police because she does not trust them.
It is revealed later in the film that Michele detaches her emotions from the trauma because at a young age she experienced a tragedy that not even strangers can let her forget.
Michele is a successful and powerful woman who heads a video game compnay. However, after she is raped, she no longer feels safe anywhere she goes.
She thinks that the only way she can take away her rapist’s power and redeem herself is to find out his identity. She believes that his sole power lies within his anonymity, so she decides to investigate her own rape by herself in order to expose who he really is.
This film is not recommended for a good time at the movie theater. The film is daring French cinema -which means nothing is sacred and anything goes. Viewers should watch purely for the experience.
Huppert often acts in movies with shocking storylines and this film is no different. One of her past films, “Ma Mere,” featured her character falling in love with and having sex with her biological son (Louis Garrell).
Another film, titled “The Piano Teacher,” had her coming on to her mother and going completely insane while stabbing herself with a knife. To be fair, “Elle” is still one of the best films Huppert has ever been featured in and one of the most tame in comparison to her past films.
The first part of the film was relatively decent with the audience getting an understanding of the complexities of Michele’s relationships with others and herself. It is also somewhat fun when the film becomes a “who’s done it” mystery.
When the rapist’s identity is later revealed, the film takes a turn for the worse. Instead of the film ending soon after the reveal, the film drags on for another 40 minutes.
The film proceeds to delve deeply into the disturbing nature of the human psyche with Michele stating “shame is not a big enough emotion to keep us from doing anything. Trust me, I know.”
The film can be applauded for being brave enough to show a rape victim not as a saint and to show that there is a man behind the monster.
“Elle” shows the same rape scene a few times, each time a little more graphic. This was not meant to desensitize the viewer, but to express the intensity of the violation she experienced.
The film portrays the men in the film as being both weak and violently erratic. Even the men who seem the kindest turn out to have very rough edges.
The women in the film are portrayed as forgiving optimists who put up with the men’s serious downfalls while being passively cruel to one another.
The film constantly focuses on the symbolism of a parasite attacking Michele. The parasite signifies the men in her life who take little pieces from her bit by bit.
One of those men is her son, Vincent (Jonas Bloquet), who at one moment begs his mother to pay the rent for his apartment, and then gets offended when she asks to look at said apartment.
Bloquet’s character is probably the best aspect of the film, because he adds both humor and devilishly good looks to what seems at times to be a very bleak film. His character is certainly as dumb as he is breathtaking.
Thankfully, this film lacks the incestuous relationships in which Huppert’s previous films reveled.
The film does tie up all loose ends, but overall, it fails to impress.
“Elle” was originally released under limited distribution in 2016, but is now available for wider release.
“Elle” is rated R for violence involving sexual assault, disturbing sexual content, some grisly images, brief graphic nudity and language.
Courtesy of Sony Pictures
‘Elle’ movie poster
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