Racy Eurocrat film has everything - except an audience

Click to follow
LESS THAN thrilled about his job offer, Britain's new man at the European Commission seems about to turn it down, complaining bitterly that Brussels is "a political coffin". On the contrary, replies the Prime Minister soothingly, the job means nothing less than control of Europe's foreign policy.

In the week that Chris Patten landed the same job in real life, a new movie has hit the screen, and it could hardly be more topical. Not only does it feature corruption, politicking and double-dealing at the heart of Europe, it includes a dioxin poisoning scare eerily similar to the one inflicted by Belgium on Europe seven weeks ago.

The film is in English and has a well-known star in John Hurt. But unless you happen to live in Belgium or Luxembourg, it will not be coming to a cinema near you. The Commissioner has failed to find a world or even Europe-wide distributor.

If ever a film was going to break the mould this should be it. Although based on a novel written 12 years ago, its timing is perfect. The author, Stanley Johnson, knows his Brussels, as an ex-Eurocrat, a former MEP, and father of one of Britain's foremost Euro-bashing columnists, Boris Johnson.

Never has the European Commission been in the news so much, in the aftermath of the dramatic mass resignation of all 20 commissioners over sleaze allegations in March.

Stanley Johnson has thrown in everything he can think of, including Nazi collaborators, a car bomb, and some extra-marital romping involving the British commissioner, and his fiery female counterpart from Portugal.

But the big studios were not interested. Its makers may be Belgium's biggest production company but they employ only five staff and spent just pounds 3.5m on the movie. There has been no general release and, before this week's arrival in Belgium, showings were restricted to film festivals.

Despite some implausibly colourful plot-lines, the script admirably illustrates the EU's failure to connect with its public. One of the dramatic high points revolves around a debate over company takeover policy.

While the limousines purr and the helicopters swoop, the abiding picture of Brussels is of a city dominated by powerful, remote bureaucrats tackling important but achingly dull issues.

Little wonder that the seat of the EU seems to most of its citizens to have about as much glamour as an industrial park in Dusseldorf.

This may lie at the heart of the current disenchantment with Europe.

This weekend the real-life incoming president, the ex-Italian premier Romano Prodi, will take his new team to a chateau near Antwerp for a bonding session. What they will do in private on Friday night in the "getting- to-know-you" stage is not clear.

They could do worse than see a video of The Commissioner which at least reveals the widespread, if inaccurate, image of their political home for the next five years. One of the characters opines: "Brussels - "great chocolate, no sex."