Emile has the year’s best opening credits so far: As Ian McKellen walks with senile befuddlement, a Reader’s Digest version of the film plays behind the cast and crew names. This odd beginning permits viewers to leave after five minutes and know what happens. Those remaining are left with the full tome, its 92-minute length hiding an experience as draining as Heaven’s Gate. Referencing Wild Strawberries in its tale of a professor coming to terms with his family history while traveling, Emile lumbers along like McKellen’s opening totter. McKellen seems fit to play this updated Victor Sjöström (like his predecessor, even getting to act in the flashbacks), but Bessai’s best approximation of Bergman’s style is the slow pace. It’s appropriate that the director calls this the final chapter in a trilogy about struggling with one’s identity—he shows none of his own while mishandling someone else’s.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 22, 2005