The feelings surrounding me at the end of Elle were, as the movie itself, not easy, very contradictory, disturbing. While trying to understand why, I realized how I was caught in a perverse old social trap of judging the victim.
I ask myself if one day it will be possible to get free of such dreadful traps.
Concerning women consent and choices, in a wide range, but specially regarding sex, I've been thinking a lot about 50 Shades of Grey and how there's a lot of talk about how Anna is unprepared do accept a dominant relationship, as if being a virgin young adult equals to stupidity. There's many things to question in E. L. James way of presenting what I think is a relevant love story, but not Anna's consent. That is her own, and she is capable of it. "But she was virgin, and young..." Really?
In Elle, consent is a fundamental theme, as to say. However elegant and smart, very polished even, Elle doesn't romanticize the relations here, nor is kidding around when exposes all the ranges of the hurt its main character carries. It is extremely respectful, but not patronizing. It points out in a clever way how we're so prompt to judge a women because of her choices is a punch in the face. Filmmakers as Paul Verhoeven are masters of pointing our own misconceptions right on the face, making use of beautiful cinematography, fierce writing, solid performances and an acute direction to let nothing out. We should listen to what they're saying with a lot of attention. The message they convey with their films are multiple, not without controversy, as people and life, and fundamentally important nowadays.
Let's just say that we're talking about a Dutch who leaned french in other to work better with his French Crew and actors. And superb main actress.
Elle could be named Isabelle Huppert, for she is the foundation stone here. I've read that many Hollywood actresses had refused the role of Michèle for finding it too controversial. When Verhoven moved the production to France, Huppert, having already read the book, asked to be a part of this project. It is a cliche, but some things are really meant to be. She is heart and soul of Elle.
Michèle has been judged since young age. She had to grow up and become a woman very sure of herself in order to survive all the madness of such judgment, from people that know absolute nothing about what she went through, about what it means to be her. Absolutely F* nothing. The same applies to Elle's audience, a lot of them, even if well intentioned, don't think twice before judging what they're seeing. I was in awe with her - disturbed, yes, of course. The story is disturbing, its more relevant strength. The kind of violence Michele was and is submitted constantly is disturbing... the damages and marks of all this on her couldn't any less dreadful. And still we judge her. From the narrow-mindness of our point of views, in order to recognize the abuse suffered as "valid" (arrrr, what is this world?), the woman should be perfect. Really? Violence is so easily justifiable by anyone - it is a crime by itself.
At one point, Michèle tells her best friend that "Shame isn't a strong enough emotion to stop us from doing anything at all. Believe me." She says that from a place of being very aware of herself and the issues on her life. That is admirable by itself, plus other features that make me love her, laughing with her antics, being horrified by what she went through, learning with her fierceness, supporting her even when it is not easy. She has the right to be her, and she earned it (as women has earned around the world) with a lot of pain and sacrifice.
The question here is Michèle's sexuality. She is in her 50s, and that is something that rises all the judgments. She knows what she is, and she came to this point absolutely alone - how she deals with the violence at the beginning of the movie is an example of that. And she knows what she wants. She doesn't ask for you to understand. It is not that she doesn't care.. .She is not allowed to care.. Otherwise, she wouldn't be.
The movie is so smart, a really class act. The subject is thunderous, but the tone is almost austere at some moments - a restrain broken by Michèle irony, sagacity, humour, witty.
After the last scene, I looked for some reviews about this amazing Verhoven movie. I don't take chances on reviews, because I commonly don't care for them. When I feel the need, as in this case, I go to two places, and that I did after the final credits. First, I recurred to Pablo Vilhaça from Cinema in Cena, a Brazilian site of movie's reviews. I usually share of Vilhaça's views, with a few exceptions. His take on Elle reveals how confused he was with this movie - and it is perfectly expected. Even so, I was a bit disappointed. So, I went after Rogerebert.com, and Sheila O'Malley review was just what I was after: an intelligent discussion of what is really the matter in Verhoeven's film. If you have the time, it is worthy it, for real.
At last, but never least, what was that cat?
|Elle. Directed by Paul Verhoeven. Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Laurant Lafitte, Anne|
Consigny. Writers: David Birke, based on the novel by Philippe Dijan, with French
adaptation by Harold Manning. France/Germany/Belgium, 2016, Dolby Digital,
Dolby, 130 min.
PS: Just before Elle, I've reached the final episode of Big Little Lies - for that reason I chose Verhoeven's movie for this day. I didn't want to stray far from what I've saw just moments before. The HBO show with an stellar cast was beyond my expectations - and unfortunately I had many. I haven't read the book in which it was based on, so I had no idea what it was about. It even took me some time to realize what I was really seeing, something that went beyond the apparent look to the lives of those wealth women in Monterrey. I was mesmerized by it. And the cast? Just wow. Nicole Kidman, Reese Whisterspoon, Zoë Kravitz... What to say about Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern, that made me forget that they were daughter and mother not a long time ago? And in a dear movie for me, not something easy to forget. This is how good they're here. The final episode is a roller coaster, not because of all the revelations, some of it even predictable. The dynamics between the characters, what they're going through... that's where the gold is. From the opening sequence, that I've never dared to fast forward, til every small detail, nothing is disposable. The young cast is something else too. I loved Darby Camp's Chloe. Of course I couldn't pair such a high production with something any less complex. In a more superfluous note, that Audrey+Elvis party was so good - even if it exposes the many silly and perverse layers of that people and place. I was so anxious because of what was happening, but could not stop to gawk at the costumes. So many beautiful Audreys <3