I had absolutely no idea I was going to go and see when I first read about Atomised, but two names attracted me instantly. Moritz Bleibtreu and Franka Potente I first saw together in Run Lola Run, and Bleibtreu I saw again in Das Experiment. I was captivated by both actors, they were so natural and dragged me straight into their characters and their worlds. So on those two actors alone I wanted to see this film.
The film is based on the controversial novel by Michel Houellebecq, and the IMDB blurb just helps to confuse you, so ignore what the film is about on the flat sheen of your monitor, and watch this for very different reasons.
It's a film filled with emotion, looking at people, how they feel and grow to change, and shows you how strange life can be, and how strange people can be. There's a lot to identify with throughout the film, and its strength is in both the actors and their characters.
Here's what IMDB say about the film...
...this movie focuses on Michael and Bruno, two very different half-brothers and their disturbed sexuality. After a chaotic childhood with a hippie mother only caring for her affairs, Michael, a molecular biologist, is more interested in genes than women, while Bruno is obsessed with his sexual desires, but mostly finds his satisfaction with prostitutes. His pitiful life changes when he gets to know the experienced Christiane. In the meantime, Michael meets Annabelle, the love of his youth, again...
The film has about every emotion there is. Pain, sorrow, revulsion, anger, frustration, eroticism, laughter, sweetness and finally love. It is a very strange film in places and it shows that life and relationships can be just as weird. Despite these really strange moments and quite bizarre situations, you do find yourself being drawn to the characters and believing in them, feeling some of the pain and joy that they do.
The leads in this film are excellent, although it has to be said that the character of Michael is incredibly annoying throughout the film because he says so little. Even in scenes of intense emotion and where his life's desires and hopes are held on a few words from him, he remains silent with a blank and helpless look on his face. This builds your frustration and at times you can feel yourself get quite angry, however once the final sequences of the story come together and you look back you realise that you've been taken on a journey, and that the frustration at the character was needed to feel what you do at the end.
For me one of the strongest moments of the film is when we see Bruno and Christiane together in the swingers club. Firstly it takes you into a world that you are probably very uncomfortable being in, and then puts you in the position of voyeur, which again feels somewhat wrong. From this uncomfortable and somewhat sleazy situation you begin to feel the sexual connection between Christiane and Bruno, even though they are apart, and then this grows to love. Finally it turns to surprise and shock, and pain and sorrow. A complete run through the emotions of life in but a few scenes. It also goes to show just how wonderful an actor Bleibtreu is as he takes you along this journey perfectly.
Bleibtreu has the best role in the film, and he plays such a range through this film. His scenes of breakdown are the most stirring and they filled me with emotion and sadness. There's something about this man that just makes him so good to watch on screen.
The film opens in a way that really reminded me why I love the cinema. It's an incredibly simple scene, but there's just something about the way it leads us into the story and into Michael's life through the act of typing the letter. He makes mistakes, deletes them, changes his mind, it's a very real and human moment, something which would usually be removed in film by having him type the letter perfectly and on something that didn't look like a computer at all - I was surprised to see that they had actually used Microsoft Word. A small point, but in this scene you suddenly see the beginnings of the story, a real character in a realistic world, and at the beginning of a journey in his life as he closes one chapter and opens another.
Some of the early scenes of the film are around Michael and Bruno remembering their childhood are the most amusing and yet quite disturbing. Through some of them you will gain a few flashes of recognition of perhaps the darker side of your life that you just don't talk about. These moments, such as the masturbating and the cat are off-putting, uncomfortable and hilarious at the same time.
Another scene of masturbation and the following classroom trauma, are perhaps some of the best on screen showings of the male psyche I have seen. The moment of going too far and being caught in your own sexual fantasy, confusion and drive are identifiable and even have the effect of making you will Bruno not to do it. You know what he's doing, and you understand the feelings (if you're a man that is) and you are willing him not to go too far. Wonderful writing, direction and acting.
As the story moves on towards the conclusions, the drama and the seriousness is raised. Bruno's tale becomes much, much darker and ramps up the tension superbly to a climax that is incredibly sad, beautiful and joyful all at the same time.
This tale works superbly and is thoroughly satisfying, and despite the fact you might be thinking you might not enjoy the uncomfortable aspects of the movie, you should definitely go and see it. The very fact that it takes you through these many emotions and still comes out a strong tale with a lot to tell you. It's strange, bizarre, but filled with heart and emotion, and the performances are superb, particularly by Bleibtreu.
Something I have to say though, the wrap-up titles are just not needed. At the final frame you know exactly what the story has told you, where it has taken you, and that's just about all you need. The titles explaining the future of each character just aren't something that helps the story, indeed it seems to cheapen the ending.