After Lemming and The Monk, Dominik Moll’s News From Planet Mars is a desperate comedy of male empowerment and family harmony.
Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craftby Mark Wilshin
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Opening with a dream sequence of Philippe Mars (François Damiens) floating like an astronaut high above the bright city lights, Dominik Moll’s Des Nouvelles de la Planète Mars suggests a lonely romantic dreaming right from the get-go. He’s happy in his job, intelligent, reasonable and pleasantly divorced, but his little world of clean surfaces and poop-free pavements is destroyed when a flow of people, including his kids, psychotic work colleague Jérôme (Vincent Macaigne) who chops off Philippe’s ear and his asocial girlfriend Chloe (Veerle Baetens), come to stay in his apartment. He’s just too nice, unable to say no – except to his sister who leaves her pet pooch behind anyway, but slowly comes to realise he’s a loser in need of a change. Little more than a wacky comedy, News From Planet Mars is centred round the worst kind of self-pitying script, turning the daily grind of a good man into a gorilla’s cage that needs to be broken out of. It’s misogynistic in its depiction of cold-hearted mothers, silent daughters and exploitative sisters, while the men only fare slightly better – all fundamentally hapless despite maintaining a code of civility towards each other. As ever, the best thing about a François Damiens comedy is François Damiens, with News From Planet Mars descending into ridicule as the family head off to the Belgian border to prevent the botched blowing-up of a chicken plant. But come together at last, Moll throws in a last-minute family reunion story, just in case the self-improvement plan isn’t quite enough. Pretending to the madcap comedy of a Marx Brothers’ film, Dominik Moll’s News From Planet Mars is simply as mad as a box of frogs.
News From Planet Mars is now showing at the 66th Berlin Film Festival