Cinema: Controversy is explored

The Piano Teacher
The Piano Teacher

Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven first started making films more than 40 years ago and his ability to shock has not waned over time. The director of classic body-horror/ Sci-Fi films TOTAL RECALL, ROBOCOP, STARSHIP TROOPERS and risqué sexy films SHOWGIRLS, BASIC INSTINCT now returns to Europe to approach one of the most controversial of genres, the rape-revenge thriller.

Elle, staring the incredible Isabelle Huppert, is a story about a women who is violently attacked in her home and becomes determined to find out the identity of the masked intruder and why this experience happened.

Dealing with rape on screen is always difficult, and this depiction is terrifyingly realistic – an assault on the audience almost. However, this shocking display of violence sets the tone for a film about resistance and submission, and independence and dependence.

Michele is a strong-willed, successful businesswoman working in a predominantly male industry. Her family regard her as the boss and she is very much in control of her home and professional life, or so it appears.

A film that juxtaposes violent sexual attacks with dry humour could jar, but Huppert’s performance manages to make this film make a lot of sense. She is one of the best-loved actresses in the world right now, and this role is up there with some of her greatest ever performances, bearing a strong resemblance to the disturbed character in THE PIANO TEACHER.

Huppert never shies away from a controversial or challenging role and we salute her for that. No other actress could have taken the script for ELLE and made it her own in quite the same way. Catch her Oscar-nominated turn from Friday.

Also opening this week is the latest film from Canadian enfant terrible, Xavier Dolan. Following on from his brilliant MOMMY, this film packs a big punch in terms of stars but is an altogether softer affair. It tells the story of a family reunion, fraught with history, tension, and barely concealed resentment. Vincent Cassel, Lea Seydoux and Marion Cotillard fight to be a nice normal family, and then just fight. Drama bubbles up from underneath the surface as the family struggle to come together to celebrate the return of their long absent brother. Much of the history remains unexplained, but the clarity of the performances makes it real regardless and the struggles to find familial solidarity are long stables of stage and screen.

To win an ELLE postcard, signed by Isabelle Huppert, email your answer to the following question to: competitions@showroomworkstation.org.uk

What was the last film, before ELLE, staring Isabelle Huppert to screen at The Showroom.