Dir: Patrice Toye. Belgium. 2008. 96mins.
A middle-aged bureaucrat drops out and goes to live on an exotic island in Patrice Toye’s flawed update of Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger. Marred by a script which has little interest in its characters and an unrealistic bent where things happen just because, this allegory about the existential crisis of white collar workers in the West is too slim for commercial appeal and too bland to attract arthouse distributors.
Bored by his humdrum middle-class life, Tomas (Vercruyssen) is also worried that he is an inadequate husband and his wife Sara (de Roo) will leave him. Like many other men having a midlife crisis, he wants to start anew. He fakes his own death in a house fire and escapes to a tropical island with a new passport and new identity. That he has an argument with an airline attendant who sneers at his new name only serves as a reminder that identity is the crux of the matter here.
His dream of a new life doesn’t go quite to plan, however. He opens a bar on the island but no one visits, forcing him to beg for menial work just to subsist. To cap it all, he gets beaten up by the locals. Five years later, he is back in Brussels, penniless and homeless. He follows his wife who has married someone else and once she’s over the initial shock of seeing him again, she puts him up in an apartment and he soon becomes her lover. She too, it seems, needs another identity and this secret affair may be the spice their life lacked.
This may be Toye and co-writer Johannessen’s theory - disappointment in oneself is only half the problem, the real crisis is not knowing what else one can be - but their dull and dismal protagonist is so utterly graceless that he elicits no sympathy; he is just a pawn being moved around to prove a theory. He plans his getaway but never thinks about the consequences if he comes back and for the most part moves around in a catatonic haze. Sara de Roo gives her role a bit more energy but even she can’t make much sense of her renewed passion for hersupposedly-dead husband.
The camerawork contrasts the warm, bright colours of the tropics with the coldness of the city, but the editing, which keeps things moving in the first half, becomes dangerously contemplative in the second. John Parish’s wailing guitars intrude a little too obviously.
La Parti Production
(33) 6 74 49 33 40
Bjorn Olaf Johannessen
based on story by Johannessen
Richard von Oosterhout
Vincent de Pater
Sara de Roo