Previously at the ICA - Films

Despair

31 Mar 20121 Apr 2012

This masterpiece by Germany's most renowned director Rainer Werner Fassbinder originally premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival (1978) and was honored with three German Film Awards. Adapted by Tom Stoppard from a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, it is often thought of as a Dostoevsky parody, and is one of only three films Fassbinder made in the English language.

It's the 1930's and Russian exile Hermann has done well from the chocolate business. He owns a comfortable apartment in Berlin, drives a convertible, and is married to the accommodating and beautiful Lydia. But Hermann has the increasing feeling of alienation and removal from his body, a feeling heightened and made all the more addictive by the sexual act. When he meets a tramp called Felix Weber on one of his business trips, he develops an unbelievable idea - Hermann is convinced that Felix is his very image to the last detail. The appearance of his double serves him as an inspiration: what if he just disappeared, opting out of his old life and starting a new existence under a different name? Thus Hermann initiates a perfect, a delightful crime - his rebirth, his trip towards the light.

Set against a background of the rising power of the Naxis, Despair examines an individual's loss of agency, identity and sanity amidst a world of political extremism and mass conformity.

Those interested to read Fassbinder expand on the themes would do well to seek out his essay - "Of Despair, and the Courage to Recognize a Utopia and to Open Yourself Up to It".

Dir: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany/France, 1978, 15 cert, 119 mins
Cast: Dirk Bogarde, Andréa Ferréol and Klaus Löwitsch

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