Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Black Book, RoboCop), veteran provocateur of the screen, most definitely hasn’t mellowed with age. His latest work, Elle, which also appeared in the Cannes competition line-up, will challenge a lot of viewers, shocking some and delighting others. Whatever your reaction, there’s no denying that Isabelle Huppert gives as good as she gets in this film and succeeds in making it her own.
Games designer Michèle Leblanc (Huppert), who runs a business with best friend Anna (Anne Consigny), is the kind of boss who takes no prisoners. Very much a success in a man’s world, Michèle lives alone in her beautiful Paris house in the suburbs. Her perfect world is shattered when she is attacked in her own home by a tall man dressed in black. As we find out later, Michèle’s past has left her mistrustful of law enforcement, and she decides not to call the police. Strong to the point of becoming an iron lady, Michèle’s relationships with those who inhabit her world are all difficult including those with son Vincent, ex-husband Richard (Charles Berling), neighbour Patrick (Laurent Lafitte) and his religious wife Rebecca (Virginia Efira). When her attacker begins to send her offensive text messages and an explicit hack featuring her appears on one of her firm’s video games, Michèle finally starts to feel under real threat, and her reaction is surprising to say the least.
With an unreliable narrative that constantly keeps you guessing, Elle is held together by Huppert’s mesmerising performance and a very sardonically witty script. It is definitely controversial and will spark some debate post-screening, so make sure to fill out a #helloDCA card and let us know what you think.