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Despair (1978, Dirk Bogarde, Andréa Ferréol)

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In Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s off-kilter Despair, written by Tom Stoppard and based on a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, we are in 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.

production details
Germany – France | 119 minutes | 1978

Novel: Vladimir Nabokov
Writer: Tom Stoppard
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

cast
Dirk Bogarde as Hermann Hermann
Andréa Ferréol as Lydia Hermann
Klaus Löwitsch as Felix Weber
Volker Spengler as Ardalion
Peter Kern as Müller
Gottfried John as Perebrodov
Alexander Allerson as Mayer
Bernhard Wicki as Orlovius
Adrian Hoven as Inspektor Schelling
Hark Bohm as Doktor
Isolde Barth as Frau in Pension
Ingrid Caven as Hotelangestellte
Armin Meier as Silverman / Sergeant Brown / Foreman

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