Elle is an outstanding movie, balancing comedy with very serious matter. Showing at the Calgary International Film Festival, I walked into the theater to find it already packed to the brim, forcing me to sit in the very front row. This film may be one of the best at this years festival, alongside Manchester by the Sea and Burn your Maps.
Isabelle Huppert stars as Michèle LeBlanc, the head of a booming video game corporation. The film opens to her being brutally assaulted in her home. However, she doesn’t tell the police nor any of her friends until a dinner with a few of her neighbors several days later. She isn’t on a good side with the police, hence her father’s killing spree when she was just a child. These assaults continue happening over the next weeks, and the first part of the film focuses on Michèle trying to find out her attackers identity. However, after her mother and father die partway through the film, she finds out who her assailant is. Their relationship is an interesting one. To the outside world, nothing is different between them, but the attacks still continue. The movie ends soon after her son finds her being assaulted and him killing the man by striking him over the head with a log.
While the premise of this film was having Michèle find her attacker, it seemed quite the opposite. It felt as though it was a film exploring the all relationships Michèle had, with her son, his girlfriend, his son, her ex, and all of her other neighbors and friends. There were no roles in this film that were just there for effect. Everyone had a purpose, and it felt like all those people were really real. Though the subject of the film is a very serious and mature one, the rest of the film is very light-hearted, with great humor filling in the cracks. The acting was superb, and even with the dialogue being in French (English subtitles of course,) everything made sense as the film progressed. The plot was very easy to follow and was captivating every step of the way.
Winner of the ICS Cannes award and nominated for 4 other awards, Elle is a fantastic piece of work by director Paul Verhoeven.
Elle is playing at the Calgary International Film Festival this weekend and will be released in theaters in Europe in mid-November of this year. The Calgary International Film Festival is on until October 2nd, so be sure to check out any other films they may have in store for you.