For suspension of disbelief to work, the audience has to care enough to surrender brain space to a character or plotline. Unfortunately, Mike Figgis' "Suspension of Disbelief" forgets this key component.

For suspension of disbelief to work, the audience has to care enough to surrender brain space to a character or plotline. Unfortunately, Mike Figgis’ “Suspension of Disbelief” forgets this key component, offering instead a lazily constructed meta-pic about a screenwriter’s fixation on a dead woman’s twin. Mistaking digital doodling for creativity, and film-within-a-film claptrap for depth, the helmer seems trapped by his obsessions in an artistic crisis of ever-increasing proportions. Though “Suspension” is slightly better than “Love Live Long,” it’s just as unlikely to get a Stateside release.

London scripter Martin (Sebastian Koch, “The Lives of Others”) teaches his art to very green students, though it’s been some time since one of his own projects saw the light of day. At the 25th birthday party for his actress daughter, Sarah (Rebecca Night), starring in a new movie written by her dad, he’s seduced by the bewitching Angelique (Lotte Verbeek, “Nothing Personal”). One day later, she’s dead in the Thames, and Inspector Bullock (Kenneth Cranham), a mystery-writer wannabe, knocks on the door asking questions.

Angelique’s twin sis, Therese (also Verbeek), shows up, announced by music as subtle as the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth. Martin falls for this mysterious woman, whose presence inspires his writing, and renews recollections of the humiliating treatment by his missing wife, Fiona (Emilia Fox), who disappeared 15 years earlier. Figgis means to explore the boundaries of reality and cinema by having characters chance upon Martin’s scripts, with passages spelling out exactly what they themselves are doing at that moment, but the device just doesn’t work.

Unfortunately, “Suspension” isn’t shy about over-signaling important moments via freeze-frames, slo-mo, split-screen and the like to make certain viewers understand the import of an event. Does anyone really need the dictionary definition of “twin” written out onscreen when Therese arrives?

Perfs verge on embarrassing, and Figgis shoots them all like models in a Dolce & Gabbana ad: Everyone’s hip and beautiful, yet there’s nothing distinctive or memorable about them. Therese says, “My heart’s broken,” but where there’s no blood, there’s no heart. Production design is suitable only for a fashion shoot, and music, generously sampling from Eric Satie as well as jazz, is in-your-face.

Suspension of Disbelief

U.K.

Production

A Content Media Corp. presentation of a Red Mullet, Sosho production. (International sales: Content Media, Los Angeles.) Produced by Vito Di Rosa, Mike Figgis. Executive producers, Carola Ash, Nimmi Saraf. Directed, written, edited by Mike Figgis.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, HD), Figgis; music, Figgis, Arlen Figgis; production designer, Vito Di Rosa; costume designers, Sandy Powell, Oliver Garcia; sound, Pawel Wdowczak; line producer, Di Rosa; assistant director, Jeremy Kincaid-Smith; casting, Sasha Robertson. Reviewed at Rome Film Festival (Cinemaxxi), Nov. 12, 2012. Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Sebastian Koch, Lotte Verbeek, Emilia Fox, Rebecca Night, Frances de la Tour, Julian Sands, Kenneth Cranham, Eoin Macken, Lachlan Nieboer.

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