ELLE [2016]

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Directed by: Paul Verhoeven

Written by: Philippe Djian (based on the novel by), David Birke (screenplay)

Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling


An extremely unique spin on films involving rape, Paul Verhoeven has crafted a rather unforgettable experience, thanks to a well-written script and a stern, memorable performance by Isabelle Hubert as the titular character. Elle’s strong nature is instantly imprinted into the viewer’s mind from the very first scene. Though re-visited in a more graphic way via flashbacks, the film starts with Elle being raped by a man wearing all black and a ski mask, but what we see the most of, rather amusingly, is her cat’s disgusted reaction.

This confronting opening immediately hooks you in. But she soon seems to shrug it off, and when greeting her son later that day, she makes no mention of the extremely traumatic experience she just went through. It instantly shows us the aforementioned strength and resolve of Elle, and we later find that she doesn’t want to deal with the police because of an extremely dark childhood that obviously lingers in the back of her mind at all times.

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She eventually tells her friends about the incident, who insist that she report it. But multiple times she tells her friends that she is not dealing with police again. Not after ‘last time’. The reason for this is explained later into the film, and while in retrospect I suppose that reason could be seen as predictable, I certainly didn’t see it coming. But then again, I don’t think predictable is such a bad thing, in certain cases at least, and especially in this film, as there are many scenes where you will think you know what is coming, but you’ll be dead wrong.

Elle is an incredibly deep and well written character. Her strong personality is very much on show at work, where she has founded a company that is trying to get the attention of Activision, a major gaming distributor. She is mostly hated by her employees, but she doesn’t care. She also has some other odd quirks in her personality, such as her overly casual demeanour regarding a friend’s husband/boyfriend who she is having sex with.

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Her work environment is most prominent in the first half of the film, where at first the film seems like a simple ‘whodunnit’, as her workplace is filled with candidates. The release of an animation from the game, a rape scene, with her face plastered over the villain’s head, makes matters even more interesting, not to mention incredibly funny in a very dark way.

Where this film veers into more unique territory is that, during a repeat attack, Elle manages to get a hold of a pair of scissors, skewering her attackers hand. She immediately recognises the voice when the man reacts in pain, and is shocked to find that it is someone that she knows. But rather than opting for revenge, she allows it to happen again, perhaps due to her traumatic past. What follows are some very dark and fascinating mind-games as the two act as if nothing has happened when around other people.

While the ending lacked the punch I was hoping for, the second half of the film is packed with strong emotions that lack any melodrama whatsoever, not to mention that everything preceding the ending is infinitely fascinating, dark, and violent. Elle is such a unique character! Her relationship with her mother makes for more amusing moments, while her relationship with her father is… Estranged, to put it lightly. Elle is a tough women, and the way she handles events defy how most would react to the situation, male or female, adding another layer to this psychological drama.

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This is a film of two halves, and both are extremely interesting and engaging. Every character is well written, from her ex-husband and son, to her circle of friends, as well as her employees. Verhoeven has crafted a near-masterpiece as he defies conventions and keeps you guessing for the entirity of the film. Isabelle Huppert is simply fantastic, she brings this unique character to life in an intense way that few others could achieve. Some of the words that come out of her mouth can be quite shocking. Deep down she is a good person who is always looking out for her son’s well-being, but you almost wouldn’t know it considering the way she acts and talks. This a film that demands multiple watches; it expertly grabs you and refuses to lose its grip.

Half a beer short of a sixer.

I feel like I’m giving high scores too often this year, but there has been so many fantastic films! A top ten will definitely be a challenge

5.5/6

39 Comments on “ELLE [2016]

  1. Hi Jordan, hope you’re enjoying your Christmas. I missed the press screening of this but I’d be up for renting this to see Isabelle Huppert’s performance. I know it’s violent so I thought it’d be better for me to see it at home instead of on the big screen.

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      • I will definitely check this out Jordan! In fact, I have a guest review that I’ll post next week from a guest blogger from Sydney 🙂

        P.S. Thanks again for being a guest on January’s Five for the Fifth btw, there are some interesting answers to your Cold War movie question 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ahh yes I’ll have to check that post out…. a week too late =/

        If you’d like any guest reviews of movies that end up screening here before in your neck of the woods I’ve love to contribute a guest review too 🙂 I could send it to you and say wait 48 hours before posting it on my own blog

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      • That’s ok, I figure you’ve been busy 🙂 You are too kind about guest reviewing, I may take you up on that at some point, but right now I have about 3-4 people guest-posting, which is good as I plan to blog less and less in the future 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • cool cool, I just like writing and I often don’t have the self-motivation to get started on a review/story/poem. So if I’m doing it for someone else that kick’s my butt into gear, and as soon as I start I’m loving it.

        I’m sure most writers experience that sorta thing at some point, for me though it never seems to go away. Honestly, I should have finished my book over a year ago!! Actually, now that I’ve written that, I’m gonna go finish the next chapter right now

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  2. Nice review Jordan. There’s nothing wrong with giving this high marks, Elle is one of my favorites of 2016 as well; it’s like if The Piano Teacher was a psychological dark comedy. I initially found the ending a little disappointing, as it wrapped things up too well, but in speculation I think the conclusion fits for the film.

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  3. Great review Jordan. I’m jealous. I really want to see this one yet it STILL hasn’t opened anywhere around me. I’m so frustrated with release schedules.

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    • oh yeah man, release schedules do my head in too!! especially living down under. I only caught this at a one time screening, it didnt get a proper season to play at all

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  4. Pingback: Bye bye 2016! End of year recap & musings on favorite films we saw this year

  5. This one is on my radar. I now think I will move it towards the top of my to-see list! 🙂

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      • awesome, man! I will watch this week, Lord willing, and let you know what I think. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Aw man, i just finished and this just isn’t my kind of movie. I was expecting a film where she was actively searching for her rapist and there would be an interesting investigation and some great twist at the end. I guess some may say there was a twist at the end of this, but it wasn’t much of a twist to me. They had too many rape scenes; it felt excessive and unnecessary. I felt there was a lot of idle time not devoted to what I thought the plot was, which was finding the rapist, and I grew bored b/c the characters weren’t doing much of anything I found interesting. I was interested in the son’s girlfriend’s explaining to him why their baby was black. lol. And I never got that moment. So, one of the things I was interested in I never got to see…

        But anyway, I’m interested to see your top-10 list of 2016; if you’re having a hard time w/ a top-10 list, just extend it to top-15 or 20. It’s your blog, your list, so your rules! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah I can see what you’re saying for sure. Its definitely a twist on the genre, as she finds out who the guy is relatively early (which surprised me too) and then they played some fucked up mind-games. I like fucked up 😀 I did find the ending a little dull though. My favourite part of it all though is that its hilarious!! In a very, very twisted way, yes, but still!! 😛

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      • Yeah, a lot of people seem to like it, so it looks like i’m in the minority, as usual. 🙂 I sent you an email about a film I just watched that I think you’ll like.

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  6. I really liked this review. Sounds like a very confronting kind of film, which doesn’t surprise me seeing as Isabelle Huppert( who is excellent in just about everything) and Paul Verhoeven who is known for controversial movies, are the talent in it. Unfortunately, this isn’t being released in England for ages.

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  7. Pingback: TOP TEN FILMS OF 2016 | epileptic moondancer

  8. Pingback: THE SALESMAN (Forushande) [2016] | epileptic moondancer

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