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Elementary Particles, The
A German read on Michel Houellebecq's nihilistic novel about social ineptitude. Story concerns two half-brothers whose lives slowly disintegrate under the weight of sex and love.
In France films such as Oskar Roehler's Elementarteilchen a.k.a The Elementary Particles (2006) are typically labeled as comédie dramatique. These are works that tend to explore an array of socially relevant issues, often providing a critical point of view, while finding humor where typically one is likely to uncover drama.
Roehler's adaptation of Houellebecq's novel is a cold, well-measured, and awkwardly hilarious film with an honest but demoralizing message lambasting most things modern. Sex, idealism, and liberation, both spiritual and physical, are the target of an unconventionally-scripted critique some may find trivial.
Bruno (Moritz Bleibtreu, Run Lola Run) is a college professor whose life has become unbearable. Constantly fixated on sex Bruno commits mistake after mistake and eventually finds himself in a psychiatric clinic. Along the way he meets and connects with the understanding Christiane (Martina Gedeck, Summer' 04) while she confronts her own demons.
Michael (Christian Ulmen, Made In Germany) is a brilliant molecular biologist who gets a second chance with ex-sweetheart Annabelle (Franka Potente, The Bourne Supremacy) only to eventually realize that sharing his life with another human being could be an unmanageable equation.
Pic's greatest achievement is its ability to attack established cultural status-quos by sustaining a controversial but hilarious storyline with a steady pacing. Logically, pic's tiptoeing between being a satire and/or comedy leaves a unique impression amongst those who enter the story unprepared.
A top-notch cast teaming Germany's best does a spectacular job in recreating thesps with some odd personalities. The constant shifts from past to present (and back), a not so convenient platform upon which the story is built, are executed via a web of fractured memory flashbacks intentionally painted in vivid, even blinding, colors.
The harsh criticism unleashed by zealous fans of Houellebecq's novel claiming that pic provides too humane of an ending is exaggerated - the novel's nihilistic slap on humanity, culture, and modernity borders a personal attack (the viewer is expected to leave pic with a sense of repugnance).
Official site and trailer:
In 2006 the film won Silver Berlin Bear for Best Actor (Moritz Bleibtreu) and was nominated for Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival. During the same year the film was nominated for the Audience Award (Oskae Roehler) at the European Film Awards.
How Does the DVD Look?
Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (OAR 1.85:1) and enhanced for widescreen TV's this Canadian produced disc is exceptionally strong. The print is properly-converted and progressive and there are no damage marks of any sort. I was able to spot a very slight soft contour during a few scenes which forced me to believe that this might be "combing" but upon further analyzing it I must conclude that such isn't present or noticeable. Contrast is exceptionally well maintained given the delicate structure of the film (the switch from present to past is achieved through the use of some vivid and over-boosted colors). Edge-enhancement is also kept in tact as I did not find myself annoyed by the transfer. Finally, there I did not detect any disturbing artifacts either allowing the film to look exceptionally strong on large TV screens.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Whereas the British disc produced by Momentum offered only a German DD 2.0 track this Canadian produced disc boasts a more elaborate German 5.1 mix. This is a strong, active, and well mastered track which brings up some of the sporadic but nice musical pieces. In addition, there is also a French 5.1 dub which I don't find of crucial importance. Both English and French optional subtitles are provided in a decent font offering adequate translations.
In addition to the original theatrical trailer and a standard Making Of this disc offers a great gallery of interviews with some notable comments by Oskar Roehler, Bernd Eichinger, Oliver Bernen, Moritz Bleibtreu, Christian Ulmen, Martina Gedeck, Franka Potente, and Nina Hoss. Each of the interviewees provides addition comments to the films' message, the manner in which Houellebecq's work is treated, how the typically French environment from the book was transported into a German setting, etc. I strongly recommend that you spend some time going through the interviews as they are anything but fillers.
An excellent German adaptation of Michel Houellebecq's radical novel The Elementary Particles is a film with strong bipolar powers - you would either embrace its stripped of glamour but vulgar criticism on contemporary societal ordinance or outright dismiss its arty cynicism. The Canadian disc is surprisingly well-mastered boasting a very strong, progressive, print. Highly Recommended.