In Elle, Mr. Verhoeven is showing his full power as a storyteller. Just as Robert McKee prophesies, this director is a master of classical form, and now, using his character embodied by the magnificent Isabelle Hupert, he butchers the classical, giving us a most thrilling cinematic experience.
Film starts as all arch-type plot stories do, with an inciting incident right off the bat. A man rapes a woman. Whodunnit? And here comes the brilliance of Mr. Verhoeven: because of the character he creates (an independent, determined, financially successful and sexually liberated woman) the inciting incident returns over and over again, flash-backed either as moment of recollection, either as moment of sexual fantasy, either simply repeating as it becomes the engine of the whole story.
As sexual tension gradually shuns its energy, it’s death that comes knocking. No surprise there, which brings the classical storytelling back to its royal status.
Elle is an intelligent, European chic, erotical puzzle, driven by a Hollywood engine.