Gamers get off on winning battles against creatures that aren’t real. So it’s no wonder that the hot-shot, female, gaming executive in Elle lives her life in Paris as though it were a simulated contest.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven, Elle follows the story of Michele LeBlanc (Isabelle Huppert), a divorced woman who, in the first moments of the film, is audibly and violently raped off-screen by a man who breaks into her home. That opening gambit, turns out, happens to her on a regular basis. Same masked attacker, clad in black, with the rape never reported to law enforcement by the victim.
Not surprisingly, Michele carries considerable psychological baggage from a childhood trauma tied to the actions of her murderer father, now in jail.
Has that long ago incident predisposed her to require or enjoy being on the receiving end of such violence, pseudo-violence or pleasure? How she experiences this rape syndrome – and how complicit the man is in her fantasies or fears – isn’t exactly clear. As the story plays out, what’s established is that the rules of the gaming world have all but become her guidebook on how – with Martial aggression and Plutonian control – to play at life in the real world. As one character says, “It’s twisted. It’s sick.”
Neptune, which rules fantasy, illusion and lack of boundaries, becomes increasingly prominent as we learn more about Michele’s routine existence with her self-obsessed mother (Judith Magre), ex-husband (Charles Berling), son (Jonas Bloquet), BFF and business partner Anna (Anne Consigny), the neighbors across the way (Laurent Lafitte and Virginie Efira) and her employees. Most of these cohorts have their heads in the clouds, primed to experience all sorts of Neptunian deceit, often at Michele’s hands. Computer hacking, ritualistic Catholicism and extra-marital affairs also figure in the messy grid.
Although Michele’s surname and the black-clad rapist suggest definitive clarity, Elle, in contrast, demonstrates just how intoxicatingly blurred the lines of life truly are.
Archetype: Rape. Fantasy. Deceit. Violence.
Astrology Archetype: ♂ ♆ ♇ (Mars, Neptune, Pluto)