Despair

1978, Movie, NR, 119 mins

Review

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Said the director of this film: "DESPAIR comes from the awareness that in everyone's life there comes a point where not only the mind but the body, too, understands that it's over. I want to go on with my life, but there will be no new feelings or experiences for me. At this point people start to rearrange their lives." Set in Berlin in the 1930s, DESPAIR stars Bogarde as the Nabokovian Russian emigree owner of a chocolate factory who is unhappy with the monotony of his life. Hoping to escape the trap of his dull existence and the advent of the Nazis, he flees from himself. One day, on a business trip, he meets a man who he is convinced is his double (although the two look nothing alike) and decides to exchange identities. Not only is DESPAIR Fassbinder's first English-language film, but it marks the first time he worked from another's screenplay--his collaboration with Stoppard diminishing Fassbinder's usual aggressive style. Fassbinder has been criticized for his decision not to cast Bogarde in a dual role; instead, it is obvious from the start that the doppelganger exists only in the character's head, whereas Nabokov's novel obscures this fact until the end. Although Fassbinder's decision does cause confusion for the viewer, it is the move of a brave and intelligent director--forcing a distance between audience and story, and eliminating the otherwise-inevitable shocker ending. While DESPAIR may not sound quite like a Fassbinder film, it is beautifully photographed by Ballhaus in a frame filled with reflective glass and mirrors. The film is in English. leave a comment

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