out of Five
Running time: 105
Beautifully shot and impressively acted, this is an evocative and frequently moving film, though it's often hard to engage with its unlikeable characters.
What's it all about?
Adapted from the controversial bestseller by French novelist Michel Houellebecq, Atomised stars Moritz Bleibtreu and Christian Ulmen as Bruno and Michael, two half-brothers whose free-spirited mother (Nina
Hoss) abandoned them both at an early age.
While flashbacks detail their first meeting as teenagers, we also learn about their lives in the present: Bruno is a sex-obsessed teacher with serious boundary issues whilst Michael is a respected genetic scientist with relationship problems. Eventually they both find love but things don't quite work out according to plan.
The performances are superb. Bleibtreu (who was in Das Experiment) has the more challenging role and he almost manages to make Bruno sympathetic. There's also strong support from Franke Potente (as Michael's grown-up childhood sweetheart) and particularly from Martina Gedeck as a woman Bruno meets at a nudist camp.
The film looks terrific, with lush photography and an evocative 1970s score for the flashback sequences. It's also extremely moving in places, with some incredibly powerful scenes.
The main problem with the film is that it's incredibly depressing and it drags considerably in places. It's also extremely difficult to sympathise with the two main characters because neither of them are very likeable – Bruno because of his behaviour and Michael because of his emotionally distant personality.
Ironically, both characters are more likeable as teenagers and the film leaves you wanting to know more about their formative years. As such, the flashback sequences are extremely enjoyable, but we don't get enough of them.
In short, Atomised is well made and superbly acted but it's a pretty depressing experience overall. That said, it will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Houellebecq's novel.