Near Death Experience

Near Death Experience
Directed by Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern
Starring Michel Houellebecq
Screening at BFI London Film Festival October 16th, 2014

by Ruth Thomson (reviewed at the 71st Venice Film Festival)

This film does exactly what it says on the tin. Forty-five minutes in we were losing the will to live so much we followed the example of many others in the screening, took the plunge (since the protagonist wouldn’t) and exited the building.

French author and poet Michel Houellebecq stars, if that’s the word, as Paul, a middle-aged, puny and depressed call centre employee with colleagues and a family who are only seen in the early stages of the film (as far as we know) from the neck down, no doubt to heighten our sensitivity to his extensive isolation and misery. One day he tells his wife he’s going out for an hour and, lycra clad, heads off into the hills on his road bike. He proceeds to wander aimlessly around whilst musing on killing himself and dramatically stands on steep ledges arms outstretched without actually doing the deed. At the time of our departure he appeared to be stuck to a rock face, limbs outstretched, Spiderman style.

Directed by the seemingly fairly pretentious Gustave Kervern and Benoît Delépine, Near Death Experience may of course have turned out to be a masterpiece, but given that unlike Paul we do actually value our time on earth, we didn’t stick around to find out.

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