Manon (Mélanie Thierry) is having a conversation in a car being driven by her surgeon mother Professor Brugen (Marthe Keller), and she is urging her to go out with a new man now her husband is no longer on the scene, when suddenly a truck smashes into them. Manon is seriously injured and it's up to her mother to save her, but what is the link to the villainous Nicolov (Alain Figlarz), currently escaping from a husband and wife cop team through the Paris sewers? The encounter ends tragically with the husband, David Hoffman (Albert Dupontel) losing his wife to Nicolov's knife as he gets away, but they will meet again...
And did I mention that Chrysalis is set in the year 2020, making it one of those icy cool French science fiction movies, most of which seemed to be distinguished by their near-monochrome photography? The Fifth Element they were not, probably because they were working with a fraction of that blockbuster's budget, but they did muster up interest from those looking for something a bit classier, with that Gallic gloss. In this case, the film was compared to Blade Runner with its recognisable future and trouble with memories and clones.
However, Chrysalis was unlikely to enjoy the same level of admiration that the Ridley Scott film did, purely because its imagination was not working with the fertile mind of a Philip K. Dick for its storyline, and indeed downplayed the whole visionary angle to opt for a more everyday implementation of its technology and run of the mill conspiracy theme for its worries over its use. After David loses his wife and is injured himself he finds himself at the mercy of scientists, who bring him back to life but at some cost which only becomes apparent as the film draws on.
Meanwhile, Manon awakes from surgery to find her face and body remarkably healed: her mother who peformed the operation tells her there may be slight scarring, but actually she looks as good as new. Professor Brugen is built up as a sinister figure by the plot, but really she is doing what she believes to be best, not only for her child but for society and it's hardly her fault if the technology she uses is appropriated for nefarious purposes. The connections between Manon and David are revealed nearer the end, but we can tell that they have some kind of operation in common.
Chrysalis raises interesting questions of identity, suggesting you are not the sum of your memories but are more the sum of other people's memories which come closer to defining who you are and what your place in the world is. So you are not who you pretend to be, but who others believe you are, as is the case with a few of the characters here. Unfortunately very little effort goes into pursuing this line of personality puzzling and more into the thriller aspect, so you're offered up fight sequences and gun battles, all of which we've seen done better elsewhere. In fact, if this film could have capitalised on the ideas and questions it poses, it might have been more worthwhile; as it is, it's watchable, with decent enough twists, but it's not going to change the cinema world. Music by Antonín Dvorák, Jean-Jacques Hertz and François Roy.
[Momentum's DVD has a trailer and making of featurette as extras.]