Michel Houellebecq, possibly the most widely read living French writer, was believed kidnapped on September 16, 2011. But was he really? After a flurry of media reports of his abduction, the story goes cold and Houellebecq, famously reclusive, refuses to set the record straight. Now he goes one step further by starring as himself in a film that purports to tell the tale.
With a nod to O. Henry’s short story, The Ransom of Red Chief, the film explores the dramatic territory where the personae of criminal and victim are remade in unexpected and surprisingly amusing ways. - Karen Cooper, Director, Film Forum
“An inspired comic thriller… [The film captures] some of his signature tone of sour, absurd, deadpan humor… Soon he is charming his kidnappers, who respect his intellectual reputation even when he barrages them with diva-ish demands for fine wines and the services of a local prostitute… Houellebecq plays himself convincingly – indeed he appears genuinely drunk in some scenes.” – Stephen Dalton, The Hollywood Reporter
September 16, 2011. TV news networks, newspapers, blogs, websites and radio stations are all reporting on one story: Allegedly- star author Michel Houellebecq, winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2010, has been abducted. Some members of the media go so far as to suggest that Al-Qaeda may be involved. For the next few days the news ripples through literary circles, feeding intense buzz and speculation.
Michel Houellebecq. Who is he really? A good writer? A great author? Even more than that? The most widely read living French writer in the world? The most hated and the most respected one? Does he deserve to be classified among those celebrated enfants terribles of our national prose, right there next to Artaud, Céline, Genêt or Gracq?
If we agree that, ever since the theoretical work of Christian Metz, all documentary is a fiction, then The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq is a portrait covered up as a funny criminal chronic. A mise en abîme using the storytelling and the news item as a starting point.
His kidnapping is the launching pad for introspection through various strips and ways. An experimentation lab where the actual writer becomes mixed up with the fictional writer, literally peeling off all of his various skins. An attempt to strip himself bare, using lies as a potential truth.
This ‘angle of attack’ focusing in through the prism of the comedy that is human life allows us to compare and confront ideas and points of view from different worlds that hold opposing beliefs: Michel’s world, the world of his kidnappers and hosts…all as we address much larger issues such as artistic creation, fear, Poland, the lottery, reincarnation, European integration, Nietzsche, weapons, Viagra, architecture, mixed martial arts…
Beyond this story, I hope to reveal a writer who is funny, sensitive, endowed with a caustic wit, beset by doubt, naïve, unkind, anxious, intelligent, and in love. The kind of man we don’t expect to meet.
Along with a final surprise: The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq may also be the portrait of a man who never aspired to be a writer, but rather hoped to become a racecar driver.