french films > Possibility of an Island

Possibility of an Island

Possibility of an Island

Possibility of an Island

cast: Benoît Magimel, Patrick Bauchau, Ramata Koite

year: 2008

colour: yes


director: Michel Houellebecq

runtime: 95

After screen adaptations of his novels Whatever (bracingly caustic) and Atomised (way off-target), it’s now the turn of French literature’s No. 1 controversialist Michel Houellebecq to get behind the camera. This eerily distinctive feature is inspired by his futuristic novel of 2005, but it isn’t an adaptation as such, more a radically-reduced contemplation of its key themes: belief systems, cloning, humanity’s precarious future, and Houellebecq’s enduring obsession, the probably futile pursuit of happiness. Magimel plays Daniel, the son of a prophet (a creepily confident Bauchau), who goes round seedy conference halls peddling a snake-oil gospel of eternal salvation. A few years on, the prophet is a powerful figure, working hand in hand with a team of cloning scientists. Many, many more years down the line, Daniel – or his distant cloned descendant – may be the last man on earth, combing a desolate landscape (the Canaries, at their bleakest) for remnants of the human apocalypse. Veering unsettlingly between poker-faced social satire, cartoonish farce (in Houellebecq’s tilts at the follies of tourism) and eerie futurism, The Possibility of an Island is a surprisingly introspective offering from one of contemporary literature’s arch-provocateurs. It won’t infuriate in the way that his novels do, but with its echoes of Kubrick, Resnais and Alphaville, this is a haunting, stylish and confident contribution to the field of art-house meta-sci-fi.


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