Elle: Comfort in the Uncomfortable

Trigger Warning

Before we get into the next episode of Peculiar Picture Show, I wanted to take a couple of minutes to warn our listeners out there that this episode talks in depth about potentially disturbing situations, like rape and violence. If these subjects are too sensitive for you, please go ahead and skip this episode.

Thank you, and if you listen, enjoy the show.

The first part of the 2016 movie Elle can seem pretty shocking. The scene opens with the sounds of Michele, the protagonist, getting brutally raped. When it’s over, however, and the rapist leaves Michele bleeding on the ground, our protagonist gets up, cleans up the mess, takes a bath, and orders sushi. It’s a seemingly unconventional reaction to a traumatizing event, and it’s that reaction and Michele’s very nature that challenges us and our preconceived notions about how people should react to traumatizing events.

As Brandon says multiple times in this episode, the movie is hard to describe in a mere line. That’s because to describe it in a simple way would do a great disservice to this complex movie. That being said, let me try to summarize.

The movie focuses on Michele, the CEO of a French video game company. She gets raped, and the rest of the movie focuses on that, but it’s not a movie driven by plot or finding this rapist. Instead, it seems to be an extreme character study of Michele and the people in her life. In fact, Michele ends up pursuing a relationship with the rapist. And yes, even after she knows he is the rapist! That’s what can be so difficult in this film: Do we like the film, or are we supposed to hate it? Should we be outraged, or do we just accept it? The movie makes us uncomfortable in this way. And that’s why I like it so much.

Dutch director Paul Verhoeven adapted this movie from a novel, but the film is still very much Verhoeven. The director is known for making uncomfortable films—violent, sexual, uncomfortable films, really. Of course this film is no exception. So what I am trying to say is get ready for a lot of discomfort because you’re gonna have plenty of it on this next episode of Peculiar Picture Show.

Sources

Show Summary

General

Brandon: First time watching this; unpredictable; a lot to think about

Maria: Based on book by Philippe Dijan; nominated Academy Award Best Actress; directed by Paul Verhoeven; plot seems secondary to characters

Like

Brandon: So many things to talk about in this movie; faith commentary; redemption; complex

Maria: Performances; characterization; complex and complicated; themes; religious aspects

Dislike

Brandon: Really challenged my perceptions–but that’s not something bad or negative or something to dislike; some emotion was lost in just reading subtitles

Maria: Maybe more gamergate; can see how people would be outraged, but not the fault of the film

Mental Health

Brandon: Grief and the reaction to it

Maria: Gamergate; shame

Quotes

Brandon

It’s rare to see a redemption story that’s dark or morally ambiguous.

This woman Michelle was sexually assaulted. I did not like the way she reacted to that, but it’s not my job to dictate how people should react to the traumas they face. Just like somebody should not dictate to me how I should react to my Bipolar disorder.

Maria

Shame, its role in mental health and psychology–specifically sexual shame–is something that can really affect people.

I think a lot of my mental health issues stem from things being shameful or not talked about and the stigma that grows around that. Growing up, I had a lot of things that I didn’t know that were OK going on in my body as a young girl because nobody talked about it.

Next Film

Annie Hall (1977) vs. Little Women (2019)

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