Even fans of cult French writer Michel Houellebecq ("Atomised") may be baffled by this self-helmed version of his 2005 "visionary" novel, "The Possibility of an Island."

Even fans of cult French writer Michel Houellebecq (“Atomised”) may be baffled by this self-helmed version of his 2005 “visionary” novel, “The Possibility of an Island.” Fable about a mysterious sect, whose cloning techniques enable it to survive human cataclysms, plays like a riff on the book, omitting most of its subplots and all its sexual content. Non-Houellebecq disciples will chalk the head-scratcher up as a handsomely lensed but poorly scripted and directed slice of Gallic pretension. Scattered fest bookings look possible for the September Gaul release.

After a long intro to the aged leader and chief scientist (Patrick Bauchau) of the Elohim sect, pic focuses on the leader’s son, Daniel (Benoit Magimel, bloodless), who’s summoned to the commune’s HQ on a volcanic island (actually Lanzarote). Dad wants Daniel to take over leadership and be cloned into a neo-human, existing purely on sunlight and water. All this is remembered in flashback by Daniel 25 (also Magimel), his 24th incarnation, who lives alone in a high-tech cave following mankind’s complete self-destruction. Then he learns another neo-human (Ramata Koite) is alive outside. Futuristic production design looks threadbare ’60s; music is thunderously self-important.

The Possibility of an Island

France

Production

A Bac Films release of a Mandarin Cinema production, in association with Morena Films, Black Forest Films, De Palacio, WAT Prods., Arte France/WDR, Lagardere, Studio 37, Michel Houellebecq. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer. Directed, written by Michel Houellebecq, from his own novel.

Crew

Camera (color, Panavision widescreen), Jeanne Lapoirie; editor, Camille Cotte; music, Mathis B. Nitschke; production designer, Katia Wyszkop; costume designer, Lena Mossum. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Play Forward), Aug. 8, 2008. French, English dialogue. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Benoit Magimel, Ramata Koite, Patrick Bauchau, Andrzej Seweryn, Jordi Dauder, Jean-Pierre Malo, Serge Lariviere, Arielle Dombasle, Juan Carlos Viera.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more