Elle Reviewed By Jarred Tito


The Premise
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.

The Review
Paul Verhoeven has made a few big hit movies in his time including cult classics like Robocop and Starship Troopers. He even made Showgirls which left a bitter- sweet taste in the mouth of New Zealanders as I believe the original story came from down here. But as far as I know I don’t think he’s ever made something quite like Elle before. A sultry suspense thriller dipped in drama and sprinkled with a coat of dry humour.

Elle is the stuff of dreams that will have hardened film goers enjoying a bit of ‘edge of your seat’ thriller moments whilst having a satirical giggle now and then. I shouldn’t make comparisons with the all-time classic sultry suspense thriller, Basic Instinct, which starred Michael Douglas and launched Sharon Stone into mega stardom, but I will because throughout the film I found myself revelling in the same obscure dark moments which are finely balanced between pleasure and pain. While knowing full-well that one shouldn’t be taking any pleasure from viewing such brazened, unrepentant scenes involving sexual abuse and misogyny, I found myself engaging in each scene as you would in any mystery murder film. Elle certainly brings out the darker side of human curiosity and wraps it up discretely with paper covered in smiley faces. I’m not sure how Verhoeven does it but he seems to normalise quite profane scenes of extreme brutality as we see replays of a vicious sexual attack.

The film begins with the desperate groans of a woman being violated. Not the sort of audio you’d expect from the creator of Starship Troopers but it seems, for now, to be a unique way of launching into a thriller. There lays Michelle (Isabelle Huppert) on the floor of her home following the ordeal. We’re kept in the dark about what has actually happened. Was this a rape or was it some obscure sex ritual? From a story teller’s perspective, it is an essential ingredient which prompts we, the audience, to inch a little closer ensuring we catch every beat from here on in.

Elle is one of those films which I find hard to categorise. In some ways, it’s a black comedy but in other ways there is very little comic value at all. In fact, it’s quite brutal. A suspense/thriller with a sprinkling of lighter moments. And being that it is essentially a French movie, expect a lot of dry, day to day drama which I always feel is an attempt at cultural revelation.

The Verdict
A very enjoyable movie experience that will shock at times. Definitely a movie for those who like dramatic suspense. It is in sub-titles which is fine. I felt it added to the intrigue. Overall, a great cast with an enthralling story that was shot very tastefully.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 22nd December 2016
Rating: R18 – Contains Violence, sexual violence and offensive language
Duration: 131 minutes 
Genre:  Thriller
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Laurent Lafitte, Anne Consigny, Charles Berling, Virginie Efira, Christian Berkel, Judith Magre, Jonas Bloquet
Director: Paul Verhoeven (‘Starship Troopers', 'Basic Instinct',)

The Extras
Before the production began, Paul Verhoeven went to a Dutch language institute to learn French, in order to better communicate with the cast and crew. He said it was simply necessary, because according to tradition, making a French movie should be done with an all-French crew. He initially spoke English with them, but this didn't work efficiently. Fortunately, Verhoeven had once been to a French school in his youth, so he picked up the language quickly.

The initial plan was to produce the movie in the United States, but there were problems finding a female lead. Nicole Kidman, Diane Lane Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet were offered the role, but they all all passed on the opportunity. Marion Cotillard, Carice van Houten and Sharon Stone were also considered. According to Paul Verhoeven, most actresses immediately rejected the part as soon as they had read the script, instead of waiting for a few days, which is normal. When Verhoeven was invited to make the movie in France, he took the opportunity to cast Isabelle Huppert, who he had known for some time, and with whom he had always wanted to work.

Paul Verhoeven made the movie with an all-French crew which included none of his former Dutch crew members, except for his personal assistant Mita de Groot and editor Job ter Burg. He claimed that the prospect of working with an unknown crew in a new language gave him so much stress that it caused him severe headaches in the months prior to filming. However, these were gone on the first day of shooting, and due to the professionalism of the crew and their love of film, the production went very smoothly.

Paul Verhoeven's second feature film in the 'Official Competition' at the Cannes International Film Festival. The first one was Basic Instinct (1992). Both films are thrillers.

Official submission of France for the 'Best Foreign Language Film' category of the 89th Academy Awards in 2017.

Paul Verhoeven's first French-language film.


Paul Verhoeven said he had a great time working in France. Due to the French love for culture, he had much less issues with budgets and the movie's subject matter compared to the Netherlands and Hollywood. Moreover, he was pleasantly surprised by how courteously and respectfully he was received as a filmmaker, and recognized by several French festivals (including Cannes) for his "author qualities". This was in sharp contrast with how many of his Dutch films were initially received by the Dutch press, which was often lukewarm to bad. His biggest Dutch commercial success,Turkish Delight (1973), was even angrily rejected as 'pornography' by the selection committee of the Cannes Film Festival at the time, despite the festival's reputation of not eschewing controversial productions. He found working in France so satisfying that he is planning to make more movies there in the future.