When is rape, rape?

Star – Isabel Huppert

My Rating ****

Genre – World Cinema > Drama

Run Time – 2 Hr 10 Minutes.

Certificate – 18

Country – France

Oscars – 1 Nomination.

Awards – 66 Wins & 83 Nominations

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Rape is our most controversial crime. Nine out of ten of those who make an accusation know their attacker. It’s rarely a masked assailant leaping from behind a bush, the attacker in Elle, a likewise and controversial film on that subject of rape. 80% of the alleged rapes happen between late Friday night and early Sunday morning, when alcohol is at play. Of the 30,000 or so ‘victim’s who go to the police just 6% get a conviction in the U.K. It was her version of events against his version in the old days (most rapes are men on women) but now the cops can sift through your social media for evidence. Women are even less likely to come forward now promiscuity is painted by the defendant’s lawyers from their sexual history or texts in search of provocative social media contact with the accused. If this regretful se after too much drink and drugs? Is it a false allegation to get back at your partner? We all know the arguments, mostly driven by the fact alcohol and drugs are mitigation for women n court but help prosecute men, one sex not in control when intoxicated and so unable to make decisions, women, the other in control of their mind when drunk and high?

The star is Isabel Huppert, who looks incredible at 63 in the movie, and won for Golden Globe for her multi layered performance. Many top actresses turned down the role as it was just too controversial and so edgy Dutch director Paul Verhoeven ended up casting Huppert and learnt French to work with her and her crew in France on the Book adaptation to the film to get it made.


•           Isabelle Huppert as Michèle Leblanc

•           Laurent Lafitte as Patrick, Michèle’s neighbor

•           Anne Consigny as Anna

•           Christian Berkel as Robert

•           Virginie Efira as Rebecca, Patrick’s wife

•           Charles Berling as Richard Casamayou

•           Alice Isaaz as Josie

•           Judith Magre as Irène Leblanc, Michèle’s mother

•           Vimala Pons as Hélène

•           Jonas Bloquet as Vincent, Michèle’s son

•           Lucas Prisor as Kurt, Michèle’s employee

•           Arthur Mazet as Kevin, Michèle’s employee

•           Raphaël Lenglet as Ralph


Attractive and Successful business woman Michèle Leblanc (Issabelle Huppert) is violently raped in her home by a masked assailant dressed in black. Bloodied and shocked she dutifully cleans up the mess, orders a takeaway with her son and tells no one, not even the cops and so resumes her life.

Her job is running her successful video game company, where the male employees are resentful of her or fancy the socks off her. She is having an affair with Robert (Christian Berkel), the husband of her best mate and business partner Anna (Anne Consigny). She also enjoys flirting with her handsome married neighbor Patrick (Christian Berkel).

Michèle feels distanced from her less than bright son Vincent (Jonas Bloquet), who is under the thumb of his beautiful but bossy ad pregnant girlfriend Josie (Alice Isaaz), having to pick up all the bills ofa new flat as he works in MacDonald’s. Michèle has a fractious relationship with her cantankerous mother, Irène (Judith Magre), whom she resents on many levels, if just for her absurd involvement with much younger men. But the family’s dark secret that may have driven those tensions over the years is about to come to the surface again as a court trial nears, perhaps a reason why Michèle was reticent to report the rape.

When she receives threatening text messages from her unknown assailant the phone contact suggest she knows him and she is being stalked. There are suspects at work, rest and play as she becomes increasingly suspicious of those around her. But it somehow becomes something else and she is drawn in sexually to the way the attack makes her vulnerable and devil may care at the same time and determined to find the bad guy to ask why?


Although the subject matter is controversial there is not a lot else to this other than the striking performance by Huppert. Its points about women dealing with rape don’t really make much sense and being sexually drawn to her attacker is pushing it. I know a lot of women do have this sexual fantasy about sex and losing control with a stranger but I don’t think this film is dealing with that. It may be about power and a woman’s need to feel vulnerable and feminine sometimes when there life is anything but or about the writer of the book it’s based on sexual fantasies but I didn’t really get this film , If I am honest.

It’s enjoyable though if just for its risk taking and we know the best sex is the taboo sex. Huppert is fantastic as it’s sexually charged emancipated woman downed by losing control and an interesting study of these powerful people that destroy and control those around them to stay in control when threatened. The pleasure she takes from revealing her cheating to her best friend is intriguing.

Its £9 million budget scraped back $12 million and even its Oscar nomination and buzz didn’t kick start any box-office. Subtitles are not good for business. I think the subject matter and Paul  Verhoeven directing put a few off as they know he has a reputation to taunt and tease his audiences (Sharon Stone opening her legs). Saying that you have to embrace filmmakers who take risks in this day off spreadsheets and cynical money making Marvel movies dominating Hollywood.  Foreign film fans will enjoy this more than regular film fans.

===RATINGS=== – 7.1/10.0 (54,254votes) – 91% critic’s approval – 89% critic’s approval



What do you think?

11 points

Written by Phillip Ellis

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