By Pratishtha Dobhal
When a character manages to assault and awe you long after the credits have rolled, you know the film has lived beyond its 70mm life.
And when you can’t stop thinking about the cinematic experience you just had long into nights, conversations, and weeks, you know it certainly had your heart and soul.
I am excited and nervous while writing this since I still haven’t been able to break apart the nuances that define the protagonist in the most defining movie of the year, Elle.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven, known for his explicit, often violent sexual content and social satire, starring Isabelle Huppert, Elle is unlike anything you’ve seen before. Five minutes into the film and you are invested in the character.
Even though cinema has for long struggled with moving beyond the limiting archetypes of women it is accustomed to, it’s refreshing to see a film that challenges continuously.
Take the most important cues from the film: Age has no sexual edifice, and Isabelle Huppert as Michele Le Blanc has no limits as an actress.
In embodying the character of a successful businesswoman running a video game company who is raped and assaulted and singularly filters the incident to focus on finding the perpetrator, Paul Verhoeven brilliantly pieces together a distinctly ‘different’ aftermath of a violent attack.
In reimagining the screen adaptation of French author Philippe Dijan’s Prix Jean_Freustie winning book, Oh… Verhoeven weaves in the voyeurism of video games into Elle, adding a fantastical depth to a movie that seeks retribution for the horror it inflicted upon the lead.
One imagines that Michele is the sum total of her experiences as the story unfolds but you are never really sure. And finally you stop trying to put her in a box. Her character remains relentless in being unpredictable and unexpected as it unravels itself. The sexual authority with which she carries on shows a side you don’t often get to experience…
That, of a sexual being.
That, of being more than a rape victim
That, of familial ties and personal narratives lost in violation
That, of just being
As you please.
Defiant. Rare. Raw, Remarkable and just so damn real.