The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq (aka L’enlèvement de Michel Houellebecq) was released on DVD in the UK last week. I got my copy on Christmas Eve and watched it immediately. I’ve seen it twice now and thoroughly recommend it – it’s very enjoyable and laugh out loud funny at moments.
The film is made in observational cinema style, as if it’s a documentary – it’s supposed to be based on the rumour that Houellebecq was actually abducted at some point when he failed to turn up for a literary promotional event. If he was, I can well imagine that it went much the same way as the film did.
Initially we see Houellebecq going about his usual business – discussing the renovation and decoration work he is planning for his apartment; getting a bag of vegetables from a neighbour; writing poetry; moaning about esplanades; complaining that the media stresses him out; criticising his friend’s piano playing; signing an autograph for a fan. Stuff like that.
Then he is abducted by three guys who follow him to his apartment. They eventually take him away to a house in the countryside where they keep him holed up until the mysterious “intermediary” pays the ransom and he can be released.
At first Houellebecq wants to know who has ordered his kidnapping; who is going to pay the ransom; when he can go. Then he all he wants is something to take his mind off the boredom of waiting. The things he wants most of all are cigarettes, alcohol and reading material. He complains quite a lot to the kidnappers, which is a fairly good strategy for getting what you want. They usually give in to his requests eventually but the one thing he never gets is free access to a cigarette lighter:
Note the scary doll in the corner of the bedroom Michel has to sleep in
It really tickled me that when Michel was arguing with his kidnappers about literature, his threat of violence involved using an ashtray!
And when he offers to write a poem for Ginette (the mother of one of the kidnappers and owner of the house they are staying in), Michel can’t resist referring to the lack of lighter in his life:
Just give the man his lighter back!
And when he’s not smoking, he is talking about smoking:
Sometimes Michel looks for other activities to keep himself entertained. He wouldn’t have been any more entertained at a holiday camp, here’s what he got to do:
Fighting – both watching and being trained
Michel gets Luc in a triangle choke
Ginette gets a local prostitute, Fatima, to visit Michel (twice) by saying he’s “charming” and “not bad” looking
Studying vintage cars
Learning to whistle
Michel is most amused when Luc pronounces bodybuilding incorrectly as “bodabuilding”
By the end of the visit, Michel is even considering taking up one of these new activities himself:
As much as Houellebecq is a fairly demanding kidnap victim, his kidnappers are also a bit moany:
Their complaints include:
Michel’s dropping crumbies on the floor (eating his sandwich whilst handcuffed)
Michel’s got his shoes on the bed (which he is chained to)
Michel’s smoking in bed (he’s chained to the bed)
Michel’s drinking too much (his defence is “With a meal, two glasses of wine isn’t excessive”)
Michel’s smoking at the dinner table whilst eating (no excuse, he’s just being clumsy)
If the above is not enough to convince you that this film is well worth a viewing or two, well, then you might as well watch Lord of the Rings with its “capes and swords and pretty boys”.
Houellebecq rocks and the rest of the cast are great too – all of them are very realistic, to the extent that you can almost believe it’s really happening.
Go and see The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq now or buy it on DVD so you can watch it many times. The film is directed by Guillaume Nicloux and has been released by Studio Canal with English subtitles.
One final thing, check out Ginette’s impressive collection of wolf plates: