Audience Feedback for “Elle”

There were 22 response slips returned after the showing of this film, the feedback we received from these slips were as follows: Rating: ★★★★☆

  • ‘Excellent’: 7 votes
  • ‘Very Good’: 9 votes
  • ‘Good’: 4 votes
  • ‘Satisfactory’: 1 vote
  • ‘Poor’: 0 vote
  • + 1 comment without a rating

Feedback comments for “Elle”.

As ever, we are always interested to receive any additional comments people may have on this film.

2 thoughts on “Audience Feedback for “Elle”

  1. When I first saw Elle during the 2016 London Film Festival, I wasn’t entirely convinced (and, despite it receiving good critical reviews, it was not on the list of films I submitted for this season’s selections). However, on second viewing I think I understand more of the nuances and appreciated the film better.

    I was struck by just how self-centred everybody was (especially Michèle, which prevented one from having any real sympathy for her character); the casual bullying of her mother, lover, ex-husband, her son and his girlfriend, etc. The casual cruelty extended to Anna, the only person she showed any real empathy towards, and the matter-of-fact way she revealed the affair she had with Robert. Even the seemingly devout Rebecca reveals at the end that she was aware (on some level, at least) that Michèle was satisfying Patrick’s needs in a way she couldn’t.

    Although much has been made about this film being a ‘rape revenge’, I believe the film is a satire on how selfish society has become – with everybody placing their own needs first above everyone else (this is even reflected in everyday speech, when was “my friends and I” replaced by the far less elegant “myself and my friends”?) Even the non-rape sex scenes were about self-gratification, with no mutual passion.

  2. I thoroughly agree. This is black satire.

    But there is also something beyond the self-centredness of the characters which left me thinking.

    Tropes about gratification and the ways in which technology isolate us are relevant to modern Hollywood, yet it is impossible to imagine this film being made there.

    And I’d love to know just how much of the French novel Verhoeven and Harold Manning — the script’s ‘re-translator’ — were suddenly able to put back in during its repatriation (re-matriation?). (I regret I left Manning from the Film Notes, due to shortage of space).

    Britain, France, and North America have closely linked histories — but our intellectual and cultural traditions are hugely distinct.

    Puritanism more or less defines Hollywood (even when directors are reacting against it). Basic Instinct, for example, was very much for American audiences. Hollywood’s Femmes Fatales (from Bogey and Bacall to Pulp Fiction) are gentler and potentially more home-loving than those from French Film Noir (think Les Diaboliques).

    We Brits get rather more hung-up on societal duty. We tend to repress fantasy and conceal prejudice in order to “rub along” (Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey got us talking, but no doubt bored French and American audiences to tears). Holland, of course, is Methodically Protestant, intellectually inclusive, politically “long-haired” — and frequently gobsmacked by the private and public inconsistencies of Britons, well exemplified by the utterly unpredictable schizophrenia of Brexit. (Perhaps we should be Verhoeven’s next target?)

    By contrast, French intellectuals, from De Sade to De Beauvoir, have always celebrated the messiness of self-actualisation. Perhaps a Catholic tradition of attending Confession for pardon of sins helped Existentialism to marry into the café culture of French Bourgeoisie. But uncompromising, brutal honesty is the artistic duty of each of this film’s rich, educated characters. (Oddly, the maxim is best articulated by Shakespeare’s puritan and dutiful Scandinavian, Polonius, in a blindingly uncharacteristic insight: “This above all, to thine own self be true – and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”)

    Because Michèle remains true in her actions, she is an archetypal French heroine in the tradition of Anouilh’s Antigone. She is reluctantly dutiful to impulse, to herself, her friends, staff, neighbours, and even her difficult family (roughly in that order) — all whilst suffering internally and publicly for it, much as did Christ at Calvary.

    At all times, we share Michèle’s experience. Verhoeven is masterful in the cinematic timing of each coincidence, catching me always in the moment — like Michèle, very much the victim of immediate (often bizarre) circumstances. We know how she feels, because we are already feeling it. In this respect, it’s very real.

    Yet the film’s unlikely ending seems unconvincing to the point of irony. Her newly widowed Catholic neighbour, packing away her shattered home, stops to thank Michèle for embracing her husband’s needs; her cuckolded best-friend smiles ruefully and holds hands with her in a graveyard. Perhaps (just as the upbeat ending in Scorsese’s equally sick Noir, Taxi Driver, could be viewed as the dying fantasy of a drugged-up Travis Bickle — or as Dheepan‘s sudden removal from drug-war carnage in the Banlieues to leafy British suburbia could just be an impossible dream) so this ending just pokes fun at our need for cinema to tell rational morality tales — when, like dreams, its stock in trade is the juxtaposition of random sounds and images for the viewer to reconstitute as experience.

    By taking sexual and intellectual honesty to absurd extremes, whilst selling it to us as naturalism, perhaps Verhoeven is having a laugh at everyone’s expense — including any of us who think there is a right way and a wrong way to make a movie?

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