Writer: David Birke | Director: Paul Verhoeven | Director of Photography: Stéphane Fontaine
Day two of my challenge and what a film to choose: Elle is as psychologically screwed up as they come. A real thriller that pushes the boundaries from uncomfortable to completely disturbing.
I don’t even know where to begin with this film, there are so many layers to the story but firstly I have to commend the great acting from Isabelle Huppert, she was truly chilling as a protagonist……can I call her a protagonist? Yes, I think the sense of catharsis we get from this means that she is a protagonist although for a moment it’s hard to really see it.
The film starts in the middle of the main character, Michèle Leblanc, being raped by a masked man surrounded by broken china and glasses. Immediately after he exits, we see her cold, detached way of approaching the situation, setting up her character well. I promised myself that I would not put any spoilers in my reviews because I want everyone to give these films a watch, so I will focus on everything other than plot, but I do want to say that watching this film does require a lot of focus as it is in French and the plot twists and turns quickly which can make details quite easy to miss. It feels like there’s a lot of content with not enough time to fully explore each part, and certain elements could have been cut from the story and they would not have been missed, but then I feel that it all did add to the building of Michèle’s character.
The cinematography is great: really dark scenes, obscured angles and clever lighting builds so much tension during the moments of silence that only serves to heighten our senses when watching the film. There are so many moments where you are thinking ‘what the hell are you doing you crazy person?!’ but the script makes these moments very real and believable, but still with a hint of uncertainty. Truthfully it got about halfway through the film and I was asking myself how much further can this story possibly go, and for a moment it felt like it was being dragged on past its end, but the lull almost gave me a false sense of security that it was just going to peter out, when really it was just the beginning of a total mind fuck.
So now, sitting here writing this review, I’m still trying to figure out what just happened, and why, and I think I’ve decided that the novel should have been adapted better, as the execution of the characters and plot fell a little flat. There was so much potential with this, and I wonder if the novel far exceeds this adaptation. I’m interested to read it now though.
Images sourced from IMDb