The Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons NFC divisional game started twenty minutes after the 4:10 pm showing of Paul Verhoeven‘s award-winning psychological drama Elle (2016).* And why would I opt to watch the film over seeing the entire game between Seattle and Atlanta? Well, I’ve been wanting to watch Elle for several months and I knew the fourth quarter would still be happening after the movie and I could get myself to a TV.
Likewise, the premise of Elle intrigued me too. Huppert portrays a woman who is raped in her house while her grey cat watches (and then leaves before the crime is completed), but instead of turning into a shriveling, paranoid victim, she metabolizes the trauma with subversive rationale and emotional/psychological deviance.
Beyond the basic story-line, I was pleasantly surprised to see that her character was co-owner of a video game publishing company. She wasn’t a housewife or a teacher or a high end fashion consultant. Any more discussion will lead to minor spoilers, so highlight the relevant words at your own discretion. Verhoeven’s adaptation of Phillipe Dijan‘s novel Oh… could be interpreted to suggest that a rape fantasy is something that women in general would grow to want if she is willing to sleep with her friend and business partner’s husband because he was there and she wanted to get laid. Or that just because a woman doesn’t become a broken, ruined creature, that physical violation isn’t that big of a deal. It is tempting to make such an assertion…or to focus on her character’s inability to have a “normal” reaction to being raped (depression, anger, fear, vulnerability) on account of what her dad did when she was ten years-old that got him locked up in prison.
These interpretations are easy to make, but misses the mark of the character’s narrative and thematic arc. She colors outside the lines and doesn’t behave as expected and whatever motivates her to act as she does or to think as she does throughout the film, she is purposeful and consequential. Moreover, her reactions present a perspective on how to make sense of (or pervert) the offender-victim dynamic, especially when the film reveals the identity of her rapist. Either you, the viewer, knew it all along or figured it out based on formal and plot elements.
And, I was right. The fourth quarter had just begun when I got to a TV after the movie ended. I started watching the game (broadcast on Fox and narrated by John Lynch and Kevin Burkhardt) about halfway into the fourth quarter and the Falcons had 29 points to the Seahawks’ 13. Over the next nine minutes, though not in this exact order, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was intercepted twice (the first time directly into the arms of Falcons safety Allen Ricardo, the second time indirectly into the hands of Falcons linebacker Deion Jones) and threw a touchdown pass (caught by wide receiver Doug Baldwin); Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu and two 1st and goal complete passes (one of them caught by wide receiver Julio Jones).
The Falcons beat the Seahawks. 36 to 20. Final score. Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.
*It isn’t drama quite in the way American dramas are drama — 98% seriousness with maybe a laugh or two. Elle is quite comical throughout the film in dialogue and reality-of-the-situation tone. I watched the film with at least twenty other people and everyone chuckled and laughed at the intended moments. The more I think about it, the more I detect a satirical angle.