Posted Oct 07 2016

LFF 2016 - Elle

Dir: Paul Verhoeven

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

Verhoeven goes French for his latest, a film that starts with a meowing cat watching a brutal rape – and goes to all sorts of strange places afterwards. A never-better Huppert is the victim of said rape, but appears to want to carry on with her life subsequently, running a major video games company and dealing with the inadequacies of the men in her life – an ex husband and their misguided son. But the brutal attack has affected her in many ways – ways we’ll just have to wait and see.

Verhoeven’s film is at times almost a cat and mouse chase movie – as Huppert’s rapist proves unable to leave her alone and turns stalker – but it’s also something of a very black social comedy at times, a curious mix that one can’t help but feel the Dutch provocateur is more at home with than his audience might initially be.

But Huppert brilliantly anchors it all, bringing us into the world – and, more importantly, the mind of the woman, whose father just happens to have been a notorious mass murderer (did we mention that?), which may have involved her as a child more than she’d care to admit.

The movie continually takes risks as it reveals itself, never shying away from the physical brutality as much as it delves deep into the psychological impact of all its events. It’s challenging, disturbing, surprisingly entertaining and, on occasion, very funny. Hitchcock is the obvious antecedent here, especially in the darkness of the film’s humour. But between them, Verhoeven and his lead actress have created something very original indeed.

Catch Elle at the LFF on 8 & 11 October

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