Apr 20, 2014
As a so-called ‘reactionary’ with an unfashionable proclivity towards anti-liberal iconoclasm, cultural pessimism, 'right-wing' libertinism, and racial/religious hatred, French novelist Michel Houellebecq is undoubtedly a sort of literary grandson to French pariah Louis-Ferdinand Céline. That being said, it is doubtful that any contemporary filmmaker could do justice in terms of cinematically adapting Houellebecq’s work (hence why he probably started adapting his own novels), as it is much harder to get away with politically incorrect material in film, which is probably the artistic medium that has been most debased and exploited by gatekeepers of commie culture-distorting, than it is with books. As the proudly prodigal son of irresponsible ‘bobos’ (aka bourgeois bohemians) who even went so far as to depict the last couple days leading up to his Leninist mother’s suicide in Die Unberührbare (2000) aka No Place to Go, German auteur Oskar Roehler (Jew Suss: Rise and Fall, Sources of Life aka Quellen des Lebens) was more or less the best suited mensch to adapt Houellebecq’s novel Les Particules élémentaires (1998) aka The Elementary Particles aka Atomised, as a work depicting two sexually and socially degenerate ½ brothers whose dysfunctional behavior is a direct result of their whorish hippie mother’s lack of parenting (indeed, like the characters in the book, Roehler was mostly brought up by his grandparents). Atomised (2006) aka Elementarteilchen aka The Elementary Particles, which Houellebecq apparently originally planned to direct himself, is the socially scathing result of Roehler working on a screenplay for 3 years and belated kraut alpha-producer Bernd Eichinger’s talent at producing reasonably decent mainstream films. Like Roehler’s previous (and, in my opinion, superior) work Agnes and His Brothers (2004) aka Agnes und seine Brüder, Atomised seems like it was directed by a Hollywoodized heterosexual Fassbinder. A less than merry mix of existential crisis and impenetrable depression, sexual looseness and impotence, paraplegic suicide and lithium-inspired hallucinations, anti-Oedipal complexes and tragic abortions, and all around social sickness, Atomised unfortunately lacks a lot of the nasty unrepentant nihilism that acted as the driving force of Houellebecq’s source novel yet the film still manages to capture the essence of Occidental decline in a fashion that can be appreciated by the most attention-span-deprived of philistine viewers. Indeed, directed by a man whose own emotional development was clearly stunted by his parents’ lack of love and nurturing, Atomised—with its cheap sex scenes, somewhat contrived direction, and strategic use of played-out pop rock songs—is every bit a product of the cultural and emotional retardation that it so unflattering depicts. The salacious yet saddening tale of two ½ brothers that act as a sort of dichotomy for the two extremes of western man—with one brother being deracinated, introverted, asexual, unemotional, logical and the other being emotional, highly sexual, extroverted, artistic, and irrational—Atomised is ultimately a rare mainstream German film that actually has something to say, even if it goes about saying it in a fashion that would probably give a Hebraic arthouse hack like Terry Zwigoff (Ghost World, Bad Santa) a hard-on.
Beginning with the contrived Albert Einstein quote, “One does not have to understand the world, one only has to find one’s way in it,” Atomised immediately introduces protagonist Michael Djerzinski (Christian Ulmen), who abruptly decides to quit his great job as a scientific researcher at a biotechnology institute because, as he writes himself, “I have to go back to the origin of my interest, to that innermost force, which binds the world together. Back to the elementary. I have to resume the research that I interrupted in Ireland 3 years ago. The artificial reproduction of organisms without sexual contact. Is it desirable…? It is desirable for a scientist to ascertain this feasibility. Truth is like an elementary particle. It can’t be split into smaller parts.” Indeed, Michael is a 30+-year-old virgin dork who, as described in the source novel, uses his “cock to piss, nothing more” and turns down a reasonably hot blonde chick at his work that hits on him in the most flattering of ways. After his hot co-worker compliments him by stating, “It is a pity you’re leaving. To me you were always like a Niels Bohr or a Heisenberg: a person of exception intellectual ability, someone with a totally unique way of thinking,” Michael merely admires his own intelligence and not the blonde babe’s voluptuous body. When Michael’s parakeet randomly drops dead, he merely takes the bird out of it's cage and drops it into the trash can as if it were no more valuable than a used condom. Meanwhile, Michael’s half-brother Bruno Klement (Moritz Bleibtreu), who is a high school literature teacher, is giving a lecture on the poetry of Baudelaire, but he gets a little bit distracted by his 17-year-old student Johanna Rehmann (Jennifer Ulrich), whose photo he routinely masturbates to. Needless to say, when Johanna remarks, “I think eroticism was a driving force for Baudelaire’s creativity, but that it made him lonely at the same time. I’d say these lines reveal the classic, tragic core of male fate,” Bruno gets all hot and bothered. Although a teacher, Bruno, who spikes his baby’s baby formula with sedatives when he is working so as to have complete silence, really dreams of becoming a revered novelist, but he tends to write rather politically unfashionable prose, as demonstrated by the following words: “We envy and admire the Negroes for we want to become like them: animals with a long cock and a tiny reptilian brain…The Negroes are still in the Stone Age. They can’t acquire our knowledge, they have no clue about hygiene and they also spread AIDS.” When Bruno meets with his publisher about having this racially charged text published, he is turned and told that he is a, “true racist. You’re full of it. That is good. The stuff about Negroes is great. Its strong, crazy, and daring. You’re talented […] My good man, what were you thinking? The Third Reich is history,” though his publisher also compliments him by stating, “You’re a reactionary. All great writers were reactionaries…Benn, Goethe, Thomas Mann, Dostoyevsky.” Needless to say, after failing to get his work published and pathetically botching an audacious attempt to seduce his student Johanna, Bruno loses it and goes to a mental institution where he is prescribed lithium and less than fondly reminisces about his shattered childhood.
As Atomised progresses, it is revealed that Michael and Bruno’s hippie whore of a mother Jane (Nina Hoss) did not even bother to tell her sons that they had half-brothers until the two were both teenagers. While at the nut house, Bruno tells a female doctor named Dr. Schäfer (Corinna Harfouch) about how his mother abandoned him for “hippy shit” and left for Poona. Ultimately, Bruno was raised by his grandparents until he was 13, but was put in a boarding school after both of his grandparents died (rather absurdly, his grandmother died in a tragic kitchen accident involving boiling soup). Bruno also tells Dr. Schäfer about how he had quasi-incestous feelings for his mother as a teenager, confessing, “I jerked off on my mother.” While Bruno desired affection from his mother, Michael would not even let his mother hug him, thus highlighting the stark contrast between the two bastard bros. Now well into their 30s, the two half-bros occasionally meet at a bar and discuss their miserable lives, where on one occasion Bruno complains regarding his wife, “She’s a lousy cocksucker, I felt her teeth – and she’s got cellulite.” When the two brothers go to see their mother, who just recently converted to Islam after being fed ‘Sufi mystic bullshit’, on her death bed at some hippie commune she is staying at, Michael makes the threat to his unconscious progenitor that he plans to cremate her body and put her ashes in a trash bag. After a night of screaming hateful obscenities at mommy dearest, Bruno eventually reaches solace after his mother finally drops dead, though brother Michael seems entirely indifferent to the experience. After reuniting with his high school sweet heart Annabelle (Franka Potente), Michael finally manages to show some minor love and empathy for the first time in his entire life and even manages to lose his virginity in the process, yet after learning all the scientific calculations he made regarding cloning have proven to be 100% correct, he decides to go to Ireland to continue his research and thus leaves his little lady in the lurch. Meanwhile, Bruno decides to go to a hippie nudist camp in a desperate attempt to find a prospective lover. After offending a hippie feminist bitch by describing African music as “too primitive,” Bruno gets in a hot tub to cool off and meets a chick named Christine (Martina Gedeck) who “cannot stand feminists,” thus making the two a perfect match. Naturally, Bruno and Christine practically fall in love at first sight, yet they also become swingers who engage in large orgies. While in Ireland, Michael learns that he impregnated Annabelle, but she was forced to get an abortion because the baby had ‘abnormal cells’, which is rather ironic considering the father of the aborted baby is attempting to perfect artificial reproduction. Meanwhile, Bruno’s relationship also takes a turn for the worse after Christine collapses at an orgy and a doctor subsequently reveals that she will no longer be able to walk again as a result of coccygeal necrosis. While Bruno attempts to save their relationship, it is too late as Christine opts for suicide and jumps off her balcony to her grizzly death. Of course, Bruno goes back to the mental institution, as he no longer wants to go on living as a result of his experiences. In the end, Atomised closes with the following epilogue: “Some forty-five years later, the scientific world came to the conclusion that there is an elementary relationship between sexual aggression and the pursuit of monopolies, dominance and the resulting conflicts of these pursuits – such as wars. Michael Djerzinsky was awarded the Nobel Prize for his alternative theory of the reproduction of the human race. His half-brother Bruno spent the remainder of his life in a psychiatric clinic. According to reports he was happy there.”
While no masterpiece, Atomised unwittingly exposes modern German ‘classics’ like Run Lola Run (1998) aka Lola rennt and Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) for the vapid and superlatively soulless pieces of politically correct celluloid twaddle that they are, as Roehler’s film ultimately points the finger at the counter-culture movement/68er-Bewegung generation and technocracy as the two great destroyers of German kultur, community, and family. For instance, in a scene of dialogue that could have been written by Teutonic philosopher of western decline Oswald Spengler, protagonist Michael is told by a mentor: “The thirst for knowledge! Only a few people have it. But these few are the most important power in the world. They keep on researching until one day they possess the key to rational knowledge. Nothing in the history of humanity was ever more important than the need for rational knowledge. Western civilization has sacrificed everything to that need…Its happiness, its hopes, its religion and ultimately its life.” Indeed, in many ways, Michael reflects ‘Faustian man’ yet paradoxically shares qualities of Nietzsche’s prophesized ‘last man,’ as a soft fellow with a typically Aryan drive for knowledge and discovery that is all too happy with the glacial emotions of the postmodern world, wallows in sexual impotence, and who is quite eager to see Aldous Huxley’s prophesies in Brave New World (1931) fully realized. Atomised also wastes no time in destroying the hypocritical joke and abject failure that is feminism/women’s lib as hilariously expressed in a story told by Bruno’s girlfriend Christine regarding her experiences with brainwashed feminists: “I could never stand feminists […] after turning every available man into a miserable, impotent neurotic, they systematically mourned the end of masculinity. So after sending their men packing they ended up getting humped by lousy Latino machos. Eventually they got themselves banged up and started making jam,” thus demonstrating that feminism has only made women all the more miserable, not to mention the fact that it has created a war of hatred among the sexes that has destroyed the nuclear family and has caused the birth rate to decline in such a drastic manner among indigenous Germans (and most Europeans in general) that it can only be described as ethno-suicide. As auteur Oskar Roehler revealed in an interview with http://cineuropa.org as to why he was interested in cinematically adapting Atomised: “I liked the book and wanted to make the film because it tells so much about my generation – especially the male generation – of people who are in their mid-40s now: their weaknesses and the bad experiences they have had with the generation before them and the cultural fights they had to go through. These were the reasons I wanted to do an adaptation of the book; the stories of these characters that were so lifelike and real. It is very daring in that it laughs about male sexuality and the inferiority complexes of men. The book is very fascinating because I never read about these topics before in such an honest way.” Indeed, while Atomised is not some sort of stoic ultra-conservative Evolaian critique about everything that is fundamentally flawed about the modern world, the film does manage to communicate some of the more obvious post-WWII social and cultural plagues that are eating away at the Occident and have only become all the more malignant as the days pass. Like his cinematic forefather Volker Schlöndorff’s greatest films, Roehler managed to simplify Houellebecq’s ideas with Atomised so that they could be made palatable to the most intellectually lazy of layman and in that regard the film more or less succeeds. Indeed, with the possible exception of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, who has essentially retired from filmmaking, no living filmmaker (including Houellebecq himself) would have been fully suited for adapting Houellebecq’s novel in all its thematic complexity and superlatively cynical culture pessimism, so one must just be happy with Roehler’s film, which is like the Teutonic equivalent to one of American Hebrew Todd Solondz's fucked filmic family affairs.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 8:33 PM
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