Shock at controversial comedy about victim's response to rape
Published 22/05/2016 | 02:30
Isabelle Huppert has spoken about her provocative new film Elle, saying "it's not a statement about a woman being raped", writes Benjamin Lee in Cannes.
The controversial black comedy was greeted with shocked laughter and enthusiastic applause when it screened at the Cannes Film Festival last Friday. In the film, directed by Paul Verhoeven, Huppert plays a woman who is brutally raped, but deals with the fallout in a perverse and often darkly comical way.
"The story shouldn't be taken as a realistic story," Huppert said at a press conference.
"It's not a statement about a woman being raped and accepting her rapist, that's not what it's about. It should be taken as more of a fantasy. The fantasy is within yourself, but it's not necessarily something that you want to happen. It's something that you couldn't confess.
"It's in your inner thoughts and, of course, Paul Verhoeven projects that on screen, but it doesn't mean that it happens to all women in the world. It happens to that woman in particular. It's not trying to make a general statement, and I think, when you watch the film, that's the way you take it."
The film, which has been described as "endlessly disturbing", is based on the novel Oh ... by Philippe Djian, and its author defended the central character's bizarre behaviour.
"She's just someone who tries to not obey codes," he said. "She tries to be free. It's her own personal freedom. It's frightening because people don't like women to feel free."
Verhoeven, who has made films in the US - such as Basic Instinct and Showgirls - and Europe, like Black Book and Turkish Delight, first planned to make the film in the US, but said "no American actress would take on such an amoral movie". Djian added: "All these wonderful American actresses turned it down for reasons that are so foreign."
Despite also being known for sci-fi movies such as Total Recall and Robocop, Verhoeven is keen to stay grounded from now on.
"I'm not so positive about the further development of all this science fiction stuff," he said. "I have a feeling that everything has been said and done and we should go back to normality. All these big superheroes and whatever, I don't know what kind of wet dream this is of the US, but I feel that we have lost contact with normal people. The story of us is more interesting than that of a superhero."