Projecting your feelings on screen is an incredibly fulfilling experience; the lights dim and the screen emits images onto us, surrounded by the darkened space we allow ourselves to be submersed within the cinematic world the film constructs. Our reality does not coincide with cinema, not totally – just reflections and refraction. Paul Verhoeven’s Elle focuses on the conflict inherent with interpersonal interaction, withholding any foreseeable resolution through the situations the characters are placed within.
For me, the interweaving storylines revolving around Michèle are reflective of reality, rather than an intrinsic capturing and manipulation of the images produced, wherein each center upon Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert), initiating with her offscreen/repeatedly on screen rape, culminating to a power play between herself and her assailant (reserving identity for actual spoilers, – I know – spoilers are pretty big for peeps, but like they really aren’t tbh). Michèle’s perspective is at the visual forefront where upon the narrative arcs develop individually, affirming the independence and her singular point of view which is amplified by the roaming handheld photographic style.
“Shame isn’t a strong enough emotion to stop us doing anything at all.”
The absurdity of human relationships and interactions are showcased through each supporting character inhabiting and seemingly invading Michèle’s space: Josie (Alice Isaaz) is being transferred from room to room during induced birth, while Michèle body lanuage and facial expression regards the situation as an inconvenience in her schedule, disengaging and cementing the dramatic delineation through characterization and space.
The film begins with explicit violence that is continually reinforced through flashbacks and dreamlike illusions that manifest within themselves through tenuously associated action. The repetition doesn’t diminish the act, furthermore, insisting for us to continually endure it through multiple perspectives.