Dir: Oskar Roehler.Germany. 2006. 105mins.
Oskar Roehler's The Elementary Particles proves again thefolly of trying to adapt the blatantly unadaptable.Based on French writer Michel Houellebecq's brilliantdisturbing novel about two half-brothers who find love, only for it to besnatched from them, it will disappoint the author's many fans.
Houellebecq's novel is, of course, thoroughly depressing, but has a kindof gorgeous intellectual passion for all that. The film adaptationdepresses in another sense.
The only realquestion is whether it works as a film on its own merits - but the judgment canonly be negative.
What made Houellebecq's novel so original was its strange, potent andultimately moving mixture of scientific experiment, case study, Nietzschean philosophy, and science-fiction.
Virtually none ofthat is on display here.
Generally it isunfair to compare films to novels. But Houellebecq'sprincipal characters - fortysomething half-brothersBruno (Bleibtreu) and Michel (Ulmen)- are empty,amoral pathetic humans who cannot be imagined as flesh-and-blood characterswith whom one can emotionally identify with on screen.
Bruno has non-stop,meaningless sex (mostly with himself) and Michael (as he is called here) is asexless cold fish. But in the context of the novel's intellectual, evenweirdly spiritual, vision of the future humanity, they fascinate.
Remove theintellectual wrapping and justification, however - as the film does - and what is left isan uninvolving, often silly, melodrama.
Strangely Roehler does retain some modicum of the book's ideas, nowwatered down and sprinkled randomly throughout the dialogue and in some closingtitles.
In fairness, Roehler gets some things right. Houellebecq'sferocious attack on political correctness and the 1960s hippy lifestyle, hereembedded in fatuous flower-power rhetoric, is nicely caught and evenenriched.
The novelist's occasional,almost inadvertent, nods towards humour work better on screen. The ambience ofthe novel is pretty much successfully transferred from France to Germany,allowing Roehler to substitute in-jokes aboutcontemporary German culture.