The Elementary Particles Oskar Roehler

The Elementary Particles Oskar Roehler
Michel Houellebecq’s controversial novel makes it to the big screen in this professional, gripping German adaptation. The film tells the story of two half-brothers: Bruno (Moritz Bleibtreu), a literature professor obsessed with getting and having sex, and Michael (Christian Ulmen), a withdrawn scientist working on the possibility of non-sexual reproduction. Both share a crazed hippie chick mother who abandoned them very young (only to reappear with a vengeance) and though their reactions to her cavalier attitude differ their emotional baggage is similarly heavy. Things look up when love comes to both — childhood friend Annabelle (Franka Potente) for Michael; hell raising swinger Christiane (Martina Gedeck) for Bruno — but health problems for both women threaten the boys’ fragile selves. I can’t vouch for fidelity to the novel but one can see how the movie’s total rejection of the ’60s ethos might ruffle a few feathers; I don’t share its total cynicism about the love generation’s total failure but the story is still a fairly accurate study of how people betrayed by their parents can shut down completely. Though not an aesthetic genius, director Oskar Roehler does a fairly good job presenting his actors and providing a space for them to do their best; suffice it to say that Bleibtreu earned his prize at Berlin. Sadly, the film falters when one character becomes paralysed (while another acts like a schmuck and seals her doom) and for that reason should annoy advocates for the disabled, but until that point it’s a sustained and moving film that will provoke discussion from its viewers. Extras include lengthy interviews with Roehler, the producers and the cast, and a so-so "making of” featurette. (Seville)