★★★★☆ Elle, SBS Productions & Twenty Twenty Vision Film Produktion & France 2 Cinéma
This French film is at its finest. Elle is intense with a surprising sense of humour embedded into the mix, and will leave you hanging on to the edge of your seats, right until the very end.
Michèle (played by Isabelle Huppert) is sexually assaulted in her own home by an unknown masked man. However, the only witness to the crime is her cat. Without giving it much thought, Michèle refuses to involve the police and begins to track her attacker down, but in her own time and in her own way. This involves the purchase of very strong pepper spray, an axe and learning to fire a gun with the help of colleague Kevin, (played by Arthur Mazet).
This is a game of cat and mouse with the roles being some what unclear, and which at any given minute, everything could spiral out of control.
If you don’t realise this film is in French, then the credits at the beginning might just give it away. Directed by the legendary Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven, this film is perfect for any psychological thrill seekers out there. It’s gripping, more modern than classic and at times, will make you gasp out of shock and horror.
However, there are times throughout the film where you find yourself laughing, whether that be at the witty banter about sex between Michèle and her mother Irène, (played by Judith Magre) or because of the clever comebacks Michèle constantly comes up with, despite the trauma she just went through. It is surprisingly funny throughout, but that doesn’t take over the elements of shock amongst the graphic scenes of sex and violence.
Each scene is beautifully shot and with the mixture of the music and sounds, creates an element simply unexplainable. The hairs on your arms would stand and you would find yourself clenching your fist not in anger, but in fear of what came next. The suspense; torturous and the intriguing feeling in the pit of the stomach was tense and just about all you could take.
Amongst all the drama with colleagues, the secret affairs, trouble with friends and disputes with family, it’s revealed that Michèle is the daughter of serial killer Charles Leblanc, who is rotting away behind prison bars. “A monster” in the eyes of Michèle and “no more than a man” according to mother Irène. Although many years have passed, there are still whispers that linger in the dark that Michèle was somehow involved in these crimes, at a tender age of just ten.
Haunted by her father and the past she carries on her shoulders, Michèle is a fierce woman with no signs of giving up on life just yet. 39 years after her father was arrested, Michèle won’t give up any fight and refuses to be seen as anything but a strong leader.
Elle is an outrageous black comedy, volatile and deadly and its leading lady delivers a standout performance, one yet to be forgotten.
Elle is in UK cinemas March 10 and is rated 18.