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The power and fortune of the Von Essenbeck family remained intact even when Germany lost the great war and during the depression that followed. Now it's 1934 and the baron has summoned his family to a dinner that also brings a cousin rising in the Nazi party to the great house accompanied by a rising manager at the baron's company. Two little girls recite poetry in the parlor and then play hide-and-seek with their cousin Martin. Suddenly there is a scream. The baron has been shot with their father's gun and the father flees the country. Written by
Dale O'Connor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Finnish censorship visa register # 78047 delivered on 3-11-1969. See more »
The film is set between 1933-1934, yet most of the insignia and badges, shown worn on the German military and Nazi Party uniforms, were not invented until after 1938. See more »
Martin Von Essenbeck:
You give him everything, everything that belongs to me - my factory, my money, my house, brick-by-brick! Even my name and your love! You're the worst, so it's you I hate! You can't imagine the evil I wish you!
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Visconti's bizarre examination of a powerful and wealthy family whose downfall both parallels the rise and foreshadows the fall of the Third Reich is never less than entertaining, it has to be said. Certainly not to the tastes of all, it seems to revel in the decadence and debauchery it portrays in much the same way a tabloid paper feels it has to publish dozens of photographs of the pornography it pretends to condemn. Look how depraved these incestuous cross-dressing Nazis were; apart from one pious voice the whole nation, it seems, is condemned with one broad stroke and we are given no contrast against which to compare such depravity.
The characters of the Von Essenbach family are each representative of a facet of 30s German character, all joined in a desire for power or the need to be protected beneath its wing, prone to making strident and unyielding demands and dismissing the rights of those who stand in their way. This leaves us with a morally repugnant lot, none of whom we can empathise with, and also tempts the cast to overact at times. Ingrid Thulin is particularly guilty, and even the usually laconic Dirk Bogarde becomes overwrought at times.
For all these faults, the film is shamelessly entertaining and fascinating to watch. It plays like a Shakespearian tragedy at times, and you feel compelled to see it through to the end just to find out the fate of each character.
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