I watched Elle (2016) last night and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Before watching the movie I read in many places that it's a highly controversial movie. But after watching the movie, I could not really understand what are the so controversial elements in the movie.

I understand that this is a highly feminist movie, the male characters are so weak, so vulnerable. I understand that Michele's not informing the police about the rape, might inspire other females to do so or anything else? I understand that Michele's very old mother's keeping a very young boyfriend may disgust some viewers, but that also happens in society.

I also heard that no famous American actress wanted to act as Michele in the movie. But after watching the movie, I did not find too much sexuality in the movie considering that Hollywood also produces movies like Fifty Shades of Grey type completely sexual movie.

Can anyone please explain?

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    My guess would be it's because this movie features women in the dominant position, whereas 50 shades the woman was still the submissive. Sort of like how Black Widow kicking 25 (male) security guards' asses is PG-13, but a man doing the same thing to 25 female security guards would've been rated R. American "sexual values" are complicated...
    – Steve-O
    Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 20:24
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    I haven't seen it, but articles on the movie describe it as a rape-revenge "comedy", which sounds like the type of movie that might stir up some controversy. Commented Jan 13, 2017 at 20:42
  • I am unfamiliar with any actual controversy about the movie. (It's possible that people will say something is "controversial" when its subject matter makes them uncomfortable, whether or not there's an actual controversy.) A few things are worth noting, though: (1) Verhoeven's most (in)famous previous female-centric movie featuring uncomfortable subject matter was Showgirls, which appears to actually be fairly controversial (and widely hated). Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 18:16
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    (2) The American actresses who turned down the role may not have known much about Verhoeven's intent for the film; Verhoeven himself suggests that his Showgirls reputation precedes him, and as BrettFromLA suggests, the "elevator pitch" for the movie doesn't make clear whether the issues in the film are handled with any sensitivity. (3) If there were controversy, it would be about the handling of rape, rape culture, etc, not about how "sexual" the movie is. Fifty Shades of Grey (to use your example) is at least supposed to be about a consensual sexual relationship. (AFAIK.) Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 18:18
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    Here's a negative review that could be seen as one side of the "controversy": newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/… Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 18:34

1 Answer 1


"I understand that this is a highly feminist movie"

On the contrary actually:

In a vicious insult to all survivors of men’s sexual violence, the filmmakers have recast the perpetrator and his victim as being in some kind of relationship or affair driven by her masochism

Basically, some were disgusted by the fact that Michèle just turned out to fall in love with her rapist. That it was depicted as if it was her fault in the 1st place and that rape is a way of awakening women's interest/sexuality.

source : https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/28/rape-elle-five-star-paul-verhoeven-film

TL;DR : Awful rape aftermath depiction made people angry

  • good, that sounds reasonable! Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 20:41

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