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>
The first chapter in Lucino Visconti's trilogy of "German Decadence", "The Damned" ("Götterdämmerung"), 1969 is a deep and heavy drama; or rather tragedy with many references to Shakespearean and ancient tragedies themes. The film follows a German rich industrialist family, the munitions manufacturers (possibly modeled after Germany's Krupp family) who attempts to keep their power during the rise of Nazism regime. It takes place from the night of the Reichstag fire when the Von Essenbecks have gathered in celebration of the patriarch Joachim's birthday to their eventual downfall ("The Fall of Gods" is the film's Italian title) shortly after the Night of Long Knives.
A Marxist and an aristocrat, Visconti was both repelled by and drawn to the decaying society that he depicts in impressive and loving details and often in a flamboyant style - the examples are the scene with Helmut Berger impersonating Marlene Dietrich's Lola-Lola "Blue Angel", the beer party, the orgy and following them massacre during the "Night of Long Knives".
Both film's titles, "The Damned" and "The Fall of the Gods" prepare us for entering the gates of Inferno - "Abandon hope all ye who enter here". The characters we met, the members of the respected and famous family are "Fallen Gods" and they are ready to take the eternal damnation of their souls in the exchange for Power which is above money, love or any human feelings. The weakest and tender will vanish; the most unscrupulous, merciless, backstabbing, hating and cruel will celebrate on this feast during the time of plague.
The acting is very impressive by all members of a fine international cast that includes Ingrid Thulin, Dirk Bogarde, Charlotte Rampling, Renaud Verley, Umberto Orsini and Helmut Berger. I just want to say couple of words about Ingrid Thulin (Baroness Sophie, the widowed daughter in law of a steel baron Joachim) and Helmut Berger as her son, Martin. I've never seen Ingrid Thulin as beautiful, desirable yet wicked and evil as the German Lady Macbeth/Queen Gertrude/Agrippina the Younger. I dare say that I like her in Visconti's film better than in Bergman's films that made her world famous. Helmut Berger was born to play Martin - immoral, corrupted, and bad to the bone playboy-pedophile Hamlet/Nero in Nazi uniform yet at some point strangely sympathetic. And was he pretty as Lola-Lola :).
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