Half-brothers Michael (Ulmen) and Bruno (Bleibtreu), abandoned in infancy by their hippie mother, have grown up with personality problems. Genius Michael does theoretical work that may make human cloning a possibility but has never had a girlfriend. Embi
This has all the strengths and failings of the typical film version of a contemporary novel. On the upside: terrific performances by a powerhouse cast sinking their teeth into vivid characters, many provocative or affecting scenes, and a sense of the world beyond the frame that too few original screenplays can summon. The minus: its attenuated plot feels like a précis, spliced together like the ‘Previously …’ montage for a high-class soap opera, with very short shrift given to supposedly major story events.
Readers of Michel Houellebecq’s source novel will also note that director-writer Oskar Roehler can’t bear to be as miserable as the original and comes up with something a *little* closer to a happy ending — though there’s plenty of gloom and wretchedness along the way, shot through with entertainingly bitter comedy and a streak of naive sentiment. Moritz Bleibtreu (The Experiment) and Christian Ulmen are outstanding as the put-upon, contrasted half-brothers: Bleibtreu venomously spits self-hatred in vignettes which might have come from a Todd Solondz movie (his attempt to seduce a schoolgirl is excruciating), and Ulmen projects an idiot savant charm that makes it no wonder the girl next door (Franka Potente) has had a lifelong crush on him.
On balance, a moving, funny, gripping evening at the movies but too ambitious to be entirely satisfying.