I want to be kidnapped!

Ewa Wildner of the 2014 Talent Press reviews the mockumentary THE KIDNAPPING OF MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ, which features in the Berlinale Forum section.


When you make a comedy, half the battle is to choose a cast well. With Michel Houellebecq as a leading actor, the filmmakers didn't have to struggle much to absorb the viewers who laughed their heads off during the screening.

It all started with a rumour spread in 2001 that the famous writer was abducted by Al-Qaeda. There were some who claimed that it was aliens from outer space responsible for his disappearance during the promotional tour for a new book. It may sound far-fetched, but with Michel Houellebecq everything is possible. Just look at him. With hair pointing in every possible direction and absent eyes, he walked into the Delphi cinema, arresting the attention of the cameras as well as the audience. The I-don't-really-care look on his face ultimately convinced me that in the movie he plays himself.

He doesn't care when three sturdy, self-appointed mafiosi tie him up and put him in the trunk of a car. He doesn't care that an iron chain constrains him when he goes to sleep. He seems to be indifferent to the fact that the call for ransom is not even announced. All he cares about is his lighter and cigarettes on the bedside table. And maybe a sandwich in the middle of the night? Oh, and a glass of good wine of course, every once in a while. The kidnappers don't even notice when this fragile man starts to manipulate them, criticizing their disorientation and simply turning the kidnapping to his own advantage.

THE KIDNAPPING OF MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ (L' ENLÈVEMENT DE MICHEL HOUELLEBECQ, France), shown in Berlinale Forum, is a very simple low-budget picture basically shot in one apartment. Director Guillaume Nicloux fills the flat with utter eccentricity when it comes to the setting (a meter-high porcelain doll in the bedroom), as well as conversations ("Thank you for making my captivity enjoyable"). You might expect that such dry humour would soon tire, but the overtly illogical dialogues make the story delightfully quirky and absurd to the very last moment. This deadpan mockumentary surely is a welcome refreshment in this year's Berlinale programme.