Saturday, August 19, 2017

Elle (2016 film)

Based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Dijan, Elle is the story of a woman who has been raped as she decides not to tell her incident to the police in favor of handling the matter herself. Directed by Paul Verhoeven and screenplay by David Birke, the film is an exploration of a woman dealing with the aftermath of a rape as well as the need for justice on her own terms. Starring Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling, and Virginie Efira. Elle is a gripping yet haunting film from Paul Verhoeven.

The film follows a businesswoman who had been raped in her home as she tries to find the man who raped her as she doesn’t want to report the incident to the police due to her previous experiences with the police. It’s a film that explores a woman not just dealing with what happened to her but also being very cool about it as she would tell a few friends over what happened but mostly keep it to herself for others while carrying on with her life. David Birke’s screenplay follows the character of Michele Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert), who runs a video game company with her friend Anna (Anne Consigny), who ventures into this investigation to see who raped her and why as she also copes with the turmoil in her family life as her son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet) is in a relationship with a domineering woman in Josie (Alice Isaaz) who is pregnant and possibly unfaithful. While Michele is still friendly towards her ex-husband Richard (Charles Berling), she is having an affair with Anna’s husband Robert (Christian Berkel) that proves to be unfulfilling while having a crush on her neighbor Patrick (Laurent Lafitte).

Michele is a very offbeat character where she acts quite passive at times who will often make some very darkly humorous comments as it relates to the fact that she had a troubled past as a child. It’s among the reasons why she and her mother Irene (Judith Magre) have an uneasy relationship as the latter is spending her time with younger lovers while wanting Michele to make contact with her estranged father. Yet, Michele isn’t an easy person to like as she can be bitchy in a cool and calm way while she would say things that would offend people. It all play into the fact that she hiding things about herself as some of Birke’s dialogue show how she can make darkly-comic comments as a way to mask herself from any kind of danger. Still, she has to contend with the fact that she’s been raped as she has her suspects and their possible motives but would also wonder if she brought this on herself.

Paul Verhoeven’s direction is definitely riveting from the way he opens the film with Michele being raped as it is her cat that is watching it not knowing what to do. It is a very odd way to open the film yet Verhoeven doesn’t mince anything into what is happening and then follow Michele in the days after the rape. Shot on location in Paris as well as areas near the city, Verhoeven creates a film that plays into a woman dealing with being raped as she tries to maintain her day-to-day activities. While there are some wide shots in the film, Verhoeven would go for more intimate shots with the close-ups and medium shots to play into the world that Michele is in as well as the idea of fantasy and reality colliding. Notably in the former as there’s a recreation of the moment in which Michele is raped where she would kill her rapist as well as other moments relating toward her attraction to Patrick. Verhoeven would also show another perspective of that opening sequence as it started off as any typical day until Michele’s attacker comes in as Verhoeven would use a Steadicam shot to capture the incident from this other perspective.

Verhoeven would also inject moments of dark humor as it relate to not just Michele’s own reaction to her rape and bits of her life. There is a scene at her work place where an animation of a monster raping a female character with Michele’s face is on display as it add some intrigue to who Michele thinks is her rapist. There are also these tense moments in which Michele is saying things that would upset people but also indicate how detached she is from those who care about her. The film’s third act isn’t just about the reveal of her rapist but also her own reaction to that man’s identity as it adds an ambiguity that does feel odd. Even as the rapist would be around her socializing as if nothing had happened with no one but her knowing his identity as it just adds this air of dramatic chaos in which Michele is forced to confront what happened to her and make sense of the choices she’s made in her life. Overall, Verhoeven crafts a very eerie yet evocative film about a woman trying to find the man who raped her.

Cinematographer Stephane Fontaine does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the array of lighting for many of the interior/exterior settings at night including the Christmas lights at Patrick’s home to the naturalistic look of the scenes set in the day. Editor Job ter Burg does brilliant work with the editing as it does have some stylistic moments in the jump-cuts while much of it is straightforward. Production designer Laurent Ott and set decorator Cecile Vatelot do fantastic work with the look of Michele’s home as well as her work place and some of the homes and places she goes to. Costume designer Nathalie Raoul does nice work with the costumes as it’s mostly straightforward aside from some of the clothes that Michele wears in social gatherings.

Visual effects supervisors Philippe Frere, Hugues Namur, and Nicholas Rey do terrific work with some of the film’s minimal visual effects as it mostly involve a sequence of Michele driving in the woods. Sound editor Alexis Place does superb work with the sound as it play into some of the suspense as well as the drama including a scene involving strong winds and another scene that play into Michele’s own suspicions around her. The film’s music by Anne Dudley is amazing for its haunting orchestral score that help play into the suspense and drama without the need to be heard in some scenes while music supervisor Elise Luguern provide a soundtrack filled with some classical and opera music from the likes of Serge Rachmaninoff and Ludwig Van Beethoven to contemporary music from Iggy Pop and Roxy Music.

The casting by Constance Demontoy is wonderful as it features some notable small roles from Raphael Lenglet as Irene’s much-younger lover, Arthur Mazet as programmer named Kevin who works secretly for Michele to uncover some of the hacking at the work place, Lucas Prisor as a game designer named Kurt who dislikes Michele, Vimala Pons as Richard’s new girlfriend Helene, Alice Isaaz as Vincent’s pregnant yet angry girlfriend Josie whom Michele doesn’t like very much, and Judith Magre as Michele’s mother Irene as a woman who is trying to maintain her youthfulness despite her testy relationship with Michele. Jonas Bloquet is terrific as Richard and Michele’s son Vincent as a young man trying to get his apartment as he deals with his girlfriend Josie as well as the revelations in being a father. Virginie Efra is superb as Patrick’s wife Rebecca as a woman who is always kind as well as serve as a figure of goodness that is rarely in Michele’s world as well as being a figure of faith.

Christian Berkel is excellent as Robert as Anna’s husband who is quite perverse in his flirtations with Michel as he is someone that is creepy as well as making Michele feel loathsome. Anne Consigny is fantastic as Anna as Michele’s longtime friend/business partner who is concerned about Michele’s well-being as she feels that Michele should report the rape to the police. Charles Berling is brilliant as Michele’s ex-husband Richard as a man who is also concerned about Michele as well as Vincent’s relationship with Josie and his own life where he just want to have Michele’s blessing. Laurent Lafitte is amazing as Patrick as Michele’s neighbor who is quite helpful to Michele as well as be Michele’s object of desire as he has feelings for her but doesn’t want to cheat on his wife. Finally, there’s Isabelle Huppert in a phenomenal performance as Michele as a businesswoman who had been raped as she tries to find the man who raped her while dealing with the many things in her own life as it’s a performance filled with restraint as well as some very offbeat dark humor as it is definitely one of Huppert’s career-defining performances.

Elle is a tremendous film from Paul Verhoeven that features an incredible leading performance from Isabelle Huppert. Filled with a witty yet eerie script, subtle yet gripping suspense, a great ensemble cast, gorgeous visuals, and a sumptuous music score. It’s a film that plays with the convention of a suspense-drama while being a character study of a woman dealing with being a rape victim that adds to her already troubled life. In the end, Elle is a spectacular film from Paul Verhoeven.

Paul Verhoeven Films: (Business is Business) – (Turkish Delight) – (Keetje Tippel) – (Soldier of Orange) – (All Things Pass) – (Spetters) – (The Fourth Man) – (Flesh and Blood) – (Robocop) – (Total Recall) – (Basic Instinct) – (Showgirls) – (Starship Troopers) – (Hollow Man) – (Black Book) – (Tricked)

© thevoid99 2017

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