Georges and Anne are an octogenarian couple. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, also a musician, lives in Britain with her family. One day, Anne has a stroke, and the couple's bond of love is severely tested.
Liège, Belgium. Sandra is a factory worker who discovers that her workmates have opted for a EUR1,000 bonus in exchange for her dismissal. She has only a weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses in order to keep her job.
While both participating in a production of "Death of a Salesman," a teacher's wife is assaulted in her new home, which leaves him determined to find the perpetrator over his wife's traumatized objections.
Michèle seems indestructible. Head of a successful video game company, she brings the same ruthless attitude to her love life as to business. Being attacked in her home by an unknown assailant changes Michèle's life forever. When she resolutely tracks the man down, they are both drawn into a curious and thrilling game-a game that may, at any moment, spiral out of control.Written by
After producer Saïd Ben Saïd sent Paul Verhoeven a copy of the book by Philippe Djian, Verhoeven's interest was immediately piqued. The initial plan was to produce the movie in the United States, but there were problems finding a female lead. Nicole Kidman, Sharon Stone, Julianne Moore and Diane Lane were offered the role, but they all passed on the opportunity. Marion Cotillard and Carice van Houten were also considered. According to Paul Verhoeven, most actresses immediately turned down the part as soon as they had read the script, instead of waiting for a few days which is standard practice. One of the actresses said she felt uncomfortable because of things that had happened to her in the past, one didn't give any reasons but just said, 'certainly not'. Verhoeven told The Guardian that the only American actress who would have been game, he thinks, was Jennifer Jason Leigh, "She would have had absolutely no problem. She's extremely audacious. But she's an artistic presence and we were looking for names", he said. Verhoeven decided to relocate the shoot of Elle to France after his inability to find a lead actress and an American company willing to produce such a controversial film. Verhoeven revealed that Isabelle Huppert had heard of the plans to adapt the book, and called around to express her interest in the project long before he himself finally got involved. Fortunately, Verhoeven and Huppert were fans of each other's work, and had wanted to work together for a long time, so Huppert's participation was quickly secured. Although Huppert had difficulties relating to her character, Verhoeven was exceptionally pleased with her performance, stating that she brought things to the role beyond what was written in the script. See more »
The number plate of Richard's car when he parks outside Michele's house is different from when she looks out of the window at his car. The same number plate is seen near the end of the film on Vincent's car. See more »
You've seen Vincent's apartment?
Six months ago, he was dealing weed and getting into fights. You see him as a family man?
That bitch Josie is a real menace. He just doesn't see it.
See more »
Greetings again from the darkness. It's best not to pre-judge what to expect in a new Paul Verhoeven directed film. We haven't seen or heard much from him in the past decade (the underrated Black Book, 2006), but we know surprises and twists and entertainment will be part of his work given his track record of Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Showgirls. Factor in that he is now working with one of the best actresses on the planet in Isabelle Huppert, and we walk into the theatre with no assumptions but a high level of anticipation.
The phrase 'tour de force' is no exaggeration for Ms. Huppert's performance here. No time is provided for settling into one's seat as the opening scene stuns us with a brutal sexual attack by a masked intruder. Afterwards, the bloodied victim calmly cleans the house, soaks in a tub and orders takeout. This is our introduction to Michele (Huppert) and begins our two hour mission of trying to figure her out.
Is she the ultimate feminist? She is the co-owner (with her best friend Anna) of a video game company that specializes in highly stylized and violent fantasy games (no subtle irony in that). Is she demented? She fools around with the husbands of her best friend and neighbor. Is she simply off-center? She scolds her mother for wanting to marry a much younger man, and her son for living with his selfish girlfriend who has a new baby via another man. She is not a good friend, business partner, mother, daughter, wife or person. This is no sympathetic character, yet thanks to Ms. Huppert, we simply can't take our eyes off of her or stop wondering how she will handle the next situation (of which there are many).
Based on the novel "Oh " by Phillipe Dijan, with a screenplay from David Birke (who has a similar theme in much of his work), the film spares us little from the daily life of Michele. We see her as a confident business person, a sexual being – whether peering through binoculars at a neighbor or trysting with a married man - and a somewhat devious and devilish person intent on revenge. It's not until later in the film that we learn the family history that has been the driving force behind her rebuilding her life while also being unable to escape the past.
Ms. Huppert is in most if not every scene. It's a powerful and rare performance that is complemented by some fine supporting actors: Anne Consigny as Anna (Michele's friend and business partner), Christian Berkel as Robert (Anna's husband and Michele's play toy), Charles Berling as Richard (Michele's ex-husband), Judith Magre as Michele's mom, Laurent Lafitte as Patrick (the neighbor), and Jonas Bloquet as Vincent (the dim bulb son). Michele has interactions with each of these characters none better than the Christmas dinner party where all are in attendance.
Verhoeven's film can be viewed as a slightly sleazy guilty pleasure, or as a profile of a strong, independent woman with a flawed moral compass. It's a reminder that we never fully escape the shadow cast by our parents, and some pay a greater price than others. It's rumored that no major American actress would take on the role, which in the end, benefits the film greatly no other actress could have provided what was needed (except perhaps Barbara Stanwyck, who died more than 25 years ago). Ms. Huppert's performance allows this to cross many genres, and it is undoubtedly the best of the year in this category: a comically mean rape-revenge psychological thriller centered on consent and desire. Should you doubt this, perhaps Michele's own words will convince: "Shame isn't a strong enough emotion to stop us from doing anything at all." It's a pleasure to meet you ma'am.
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