Directed by: Oskar Roehler
Original title: Elementarteilchen (Elementary particles)
Of all the films I’ve watched since starting this blog, this is definitely one of my favourites. Based on the novel by Michel Houellebecq (which I haven't read, but definitely will), if Atomised is anything to go by, Philip Larkin was right on the money in his poem ‘This Be The Verse’. Every significant character – and even some who appear for just a few minutes – is infused with emotional or sexual dysfunction, and even when this is not signalled explicitly, its spectre lurks in the background.
Dumped with their respective grandparents and only introduced to one another in their early teens, half-brothers Bruno (Moritz Bleibtreu) and Michael (Christian Ulmen) have been emotionally scarred by their sexually liberated mother in very different ways. Michael has buried himself in scientific research – ironically focusing on artificial reproduction – and denied himself the opportunity to be happy. As for Bruno, he spends so much time fantasising about an unobtainable – indeed, non-existent – female sexuality that he risks losing both his family and his grip on reality.
Chance encounters for the pair of them open the door to a very different and brighter future with women who understand them, but the odds are just too stacked for everyone to come out unscathed. Dramatic but not melodramatic, the film boasts great performances from all of the leads and some (mainly sexual) moments that made me gasp in disbelief. Christian Ulmen takes the more restrained, less showy role, while Moritz Bleibtreu gets his teeth into a character who starts off so frustrated he borders on sleazy and desperate, but ends the film so broken that all he can do is turn to psychiatric nurses who hold his hand and give him the affection he should have received from his mother as a young boy.