Verhoeven and Huppert Combine to Tell a Singular Story of Feminine Strength in “Elle”

Paul Verhoeven’s Elle opens with a blank screen and the sickening sounds of sexual assault.  The first image of the film is of a cat, casually witnessing the rape.  Only after this introduction does Verhoeven confront the audience with the actual struggle:  a man clad in dark clothing and a ski mask, dominating an older woman and having his way with her.  Once he is gone, we’re introduced to Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) wordlessly; she picks herself up, straightens her clothing, cleans up some broken glass, and then takes a bath.  The blood floats up from between her legs to color the bubbles with a crimson wisp.

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