By Luciana Leitão
The film starts with a shocking rape scene at Michèle’s (Isabelle Huppert) home. Elle, a French-German-Belgian psychological thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven, comes like a punch in the stomach, awakening all your senses.
Michèlle is a successful businesswoman who, after the violence scene, tries to discover the identity of her perpetrator. She seems fierce and invincible, even after a terrifying rape scene. Nothing seems to take her down.
Head of a video company, her sharp and ruthless behaviour in work are transported to her personal life as well. Yet, after being attacked at home, even though she attempts at maintaining a façade of meticulous order, her life changes. She and her perpetrator are then drawn into a thrilling game, which may, at any moment, lose control.
Isabelle Huppert, as usual, plays an amazing part as Michèle, managing to maintain at all cost a cover-up of rationality and strength. Huppert was brilliant, taking the action in dangerous mind-blowing fields.
The film, at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, was described as “pure Verhoeven, extremely erotic and perverted.” I would say perverted is the right word, as, throughout the film, you keep sensing continuous punches in the stomach, as the action turns into something particular strange. And, even though it possesses a certain kind of eroticism, the director refuses such epithet, having said: “Those people who think that this is an erotic film will be disillusioned. They are in for a strange confrontation with a movie that is… not ordinary. I don’t think the story is erotic; it’s about rape. An erotic thriller would be a bit weird, right? I mean, it might be erotic for the person doing it, but I don’t think that rape in general is something you would call erotic.”
Elle is something as shocking as it is memorable. It troubles you. It leads you to question. You are unable to remain indifferent. That’s what cinema is all about.