TIFF 2016 Review: Elle
More than ten years after his last feature film, director Paul Verhoeven has returned with Elle, a thriller centred around a middle-aged video-game exec named Michelle (the iconic Isabelle Huppert) who experiences a severe personal trauma. Her complex reaction to trauma, including trauma suffered as a child, is what makes Michelle such an interesting character and the film so uniquely compelling.
As Michelle deals with her trauma, which is distinctly separate from her life in many ways, she goes about living. It just so happens her life is perfect fodder for a twisted French farce.
The film covers some seriously grim content but Verhoeven manages to mine humour out of the darkest of places and incredulously, he maintains a sense of playfulness throughout. He’s helped out by a tremendous supporting cast but it’s hard to imagine another director or lead performer pulling this off. Huppert’s Michelle is unlike any character portrayed on screen in recent memory and the link between Huppert and this film’s success cannot be overlooked.
Verhoeven’s his first ever French feature, is a darkly funny genre-bender, probably best described as a rape-revenge fantasy but truly, Elle is a near-impossible film to describe. Like much of Verhoeven’s past work, this fiercely intelligent and provocative film demands to be watched.