||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (April 2011)|
|Directed by||Małgorzata Szumowska|
|Produced by||Marianne Slot|
|Distributed by||Memento Films|
|Running time||92 minutes|
Elles is a 2011 European film, directed and co-written by Polish director Małgorzata Szumowska. It shows an episode in the life of Anne (Juliette Binoche), a journalist in Paris for French Elle who is writing an article about female student prostitution.
Although the young women are not keen on publicity, she persuades two students to talk to her: the provocative Alicja (Joanna Kulig), an ambitious economics student who left Poland to further her education; and the subtle Charlotte (Anaïs Demoustier), enrolled in a Parisian classe préparatoire, determined to leave her modest provincial background behind.
Where Anne is expecting misery and distress, she discovers freedom, pride, and empowerment. As Anne’s professional curiosity in the two women becomes a matter of personal interest, she starts to rediscover her own sexuality.
Elles premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and first entered general release in France in February 2012.
The film is set during the course of one day. Anne (Juliette Binoche) is trying to meet the deadline for her article about prostitution, while shopping and preparing dinner for her husband's boss and his wife. She is also worrying about her two sons, the eldest of whom has been skipping classes while the younger appears to start being hooked on video games. This narrative is interrupted by the flashbacks to the conversations Annie had with the two students, scenes from their lives, and the effect that their work in the sex industry is having on them and those close to them.
Anne interviews Charlotte (Anaïs Demoustier) in a park where she seems very relaxed about the sex she has with her clients. She has tried doing part-time work but found that her studies suffered so she turned to prostitution. But she still does the occasional shift as she needs to be able to explain to her family and boyfriend where the money comes from. These sexual encounters inevitably lead to conflict in her relationship with her boyfriend who at one point demands to know if she is seeing someone else. Her friendly girl-next-door nature leads her clients to confide in her about their lives – their jobs, their wives – which has surprised Charlotte as she had imagined the work would have been non-stop sex.
Alicja (Joanna Kulig) is quite a different person. Arriving from Poland to study in France she not only lost her suitcase but found the student advisers to be less than helpful in her hour of need. Another student came to her rescue, but admitted that his generosity was part of the courtship. By the time we see her being interviewed by Anne, Alicja has earned enough to have a very nice apartment along with designer clothes and handbags. She is much more hedonistic than Charlotte and proceeds to get Anne drunk during the course of the interview in her apartment. When asked who her clients are, Alicja simply replies that they are bored husbands. For Alicja, being alone in a foreign country has led her to seemingly much more freedom than she enjoyed at home but when asked if she wanted to stop, she admits that there is an element of addiction with the way she earns money. It is only when her mother comes to stay that we see the harm that her sex work is really having on her life.
There are points in the film where it all looks rather innocent and carefree but we are reminded of the potentially dangerous circumstances that young women can find themselves in with Charlotte falling prey to a violent client. And we are shown that the clients are not creepy weirdos but in fact just ordinary men who you would walk past in the street without giving them a second look – they are both young and old, predatory and insecure.
How the students' lives turn out is left to the viewer to decide with the end of the film focusing more on Anne's life and the effect these encounters with the two students has had on her, and her relationship with her husband.
- Juliette Binoche: Anne
- Anaïs Demoustier: Lola/Charlotte
- Joanna Kulig: Alicja
- Louis-Do de Lencquesaing: Patrick
- Krystyna Janda: Anne's mother
- Andrzej Chyra: Sadist client
The film is rated NC-17 as a result of explicit sexual content.
- "Elles". The New York Times. Retrieved December 15, 2012.