Dir: Martine Doyen. Bel-Fr. 2006. 90mins.

A mystery within a riddle wrapped in an enigma, orperhaps just your averagely cryptic existential romance, Komma is an initially tantalisingdream-like oddity that doesn't sustain its interest. A story of two traumatisedoddballs getting together in a subtly unreal Brussels, this debut from multipleshorts prize-winner Martine Doyen is finally too introspective, even hermetic,to really engage. Other than a winningly off-beat performance from Belgianactor-musician Arno Hintjens,too little is memorable, and Komma's future is unlikely to lie outside the specialisedfestival circuit (it premiered in Critics' Week at Cannes).

The story beginspromisingly, with a bruised, soiled man (Hintjens)waking to find himself inside a body bag in a hospitalmorgue. Pausing to attack an attendant and to determine that his name is, orwas, Peter de Wit, he steals the identity and money of a (presumably dead)Swede, Lars Ericsson, and checks into an expensive hotel to begin a new life.

Meanwhile, traumatisedartist Lucie Brackner (Lemaitre), who's about to stage a literally explosiveperformance piece, is troubled by her recent break-up with sleazy ex-lover Edouard (Negret) and by thenagging of her hyper-chic, neurotic and boozy mother (veteran Edith Scob, livening things up considerably).

After her show, Lucie, like Peter/Lars, also seems to have lost her memory,and the two start a tentative relationship after achance meeting. Lars persuades Lucie that they are along-time couple who first met in Peru, and she believes him - or perhapsfeigns to. She wakes the next day to find that Lars has spirited her away to asnowbound Bavarian landscape bizarrely peopled by folkloric types in traditionallyAlpine get-up.

The wintry idyll is fine aslong as it lasts, but then Lars, for his own reasons, drives off to pursue hisown destiny in the snow - with a downbeat, literally dangling ending.

Komma- the title referring both to the punctuation mark and to the Swedish wordmeaning "to come, come back or arrive" - never quite establishes the terms ofreference within which its riddles might achieve true resonance. Is Peteractually dead, or only in some metaphorical way' Clearly it's pedantic to tryand get any literal grasp on the drama, but the mystery never seems provocativelyslippery, only nebulous.

Unfortunately, thecharacters are somewhat nebulous too: Lucie, playedby co-screenwriter Lematre, comes across as no moreor less neurotic than any performance artist might be with a high-strung motherto contend with. Lars isn't that richly shaded either, but at least Arno's odd manner - shambling middle-age laced withbattered bohemian chic - makes an unusual screen presence.

The film is creaking underits longueurs long before we reach Bavaria - which iswhere the murky visuals at last receive a welcome charge of light and texture.Some of the incidental arty trimmings - a seemingly random cameo by a streetpoet, a camp cabaret tribute to Bavaria's mad King Ludwig - irritate ratherthan add spice. At least, Jeff Mercalis's unusual,rippling score is a plus, bringing a supple touch to an otherwise laboriousaffair.

Production companies
La Parti Production
OF2B Productions
Movie Stream Filmed Entertainment

International sales
Bavaria Films

Jean-Luc Ormiares
Isabelle Filleul de Brohy
Philippe Kaufmann
Vincent Tavier
Guillaume Malandrin

Martine Doyen
Valerie Lemaitre

Hugues Poulain

Matyas Veress
Martine Doyen

Production design
Valerie Grall

Jeff Mercelis

Main cast
Arno Hintjens
Valerie Lemaatre
Edith Scob
Francois Negret