Germany in the early 1930s. Against the backdrop of the Nazis' rise, Hermann Hermann, a Russian émigré and chocolate magnate, goes slowly mad. It begins with his seating himself in a chair ... See full summary »
Germany in the early 1930s. Against the backdrop of the Nazis' rise, Hermann Hermann, a Russian émigré and chocolate magnate, goes slowly mad. It begins with his seating himself in a chair to observe himself making love to his wife, Lydia, a zaftig empty-headed siren who is also sleeping with her cousin. Hermann is soon given to intemperate outbursts at his workers, other businessmen, and strangers. Then, he meets Felix, an itinerant laborer, whom he delusionally believes looks exactly like himself. Armed with a new life insurance policy, he hatches an elaborate plot in the belief it will free him of all his worries. Written by
Visually stunning, masterfully acted, brilliantly directedadaptation of a complex Nabokov novella.
It's hard for me to stay away from excessive use of superlatives when commenting on what I consider to be Fassbinder's masterpiece. Michael Ballhaus has filmed more than a dozen Fassbinder films, and Despair is a fine example of the value of their collaboration. Several images are stunningly memorable: the water dripping on the eggshells in the sink; the circular tracking shot through the glass walls of Hermann Hermann's office revealing him in his cage; and the auto-voyeurism of Hermann watching himself in bed with his voluptuous, vacant Frau. Doing justice to Nabokov's compelling dialog and canny character studies has been well done before in Kubrick's Lolita, but Tom Stoppard's rendition here was a perfect match for Fassbinder's (and Ballhaus's) visual feast. And if you are somehow not yet a fan of Dirk Bogarde, seeing his performance in Despair will surely make you as ardent an admirer of his work as I have become.
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