In an atmosphere of political tension when the French still control Algiers, an Algerian is killed on the beach and a French man who has lived in Algiers all his life is arrested for the ... See full summary »
The power and fortune of the Von Essenbeck family remained intact even when Germany lost World War I, 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 (Helmut Berger). 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 <email@example.com>
In two successive movies, Director Luchino Visconti employs the name "Aschenbach" for main characters. Considering that he had already read Death in Venice by Thomas Mann which was the subject of his next movie, this name represents two versions of the same personality. In this one, the character has no first name, and he is a cousin of the Essenbeck family, he becomes the puppet-master, as he is shown to be an important member of the Nazi party. In Death, Gustav is an old man, a composer (in the novella, a writer) who creates other worlds and is thus also a puppet-master, but an old one near death. See more »
The film opens on the night of the Reichstag Fire (27 February 1933). However, later that night (or early the next morning) the police inspector investigating the murder of Joachim, in dictating a report to a secretary, gives the date as 18 February 1933. See more »
You must realize that today in Germany anything can happen, even the improbable, and it's just the beginning, Frederick. Personal morals are dead. We are an elite society where everything is permissible. These are Hitler's words. My dear Frederick, even you should give them some thought.
See more »
The full 155-minute version contains sex and violence that garnered the film an X-rating in the U.S. Most video versions have been trimmed to 150 minutes and rated R. The R2 DVD published by Istituto Luce in DVD has the shorter, cut version. See more »
Pauline Kael famously called this movie "hysterical" (she was contrasting it to Bertolucci's *The Conformist*, which was supposed to be more "lyrical".) Well, a movie about decadent Nazis is bound to be a little hysterical -- what, were you expecting something tasteful? Hysteria is probably the best mode with which to treat the Third Reich. What's astounding is that director Luchino Visconti forced his sweaty, hysterical visuals into a rigid classical structure. The set-up is pure clockwork: one betrayal leading to another; one devastation opening up an even deeper abyss for another perpetrator.
Basically, Visconti is taking on *Macbeth*, here. Dirk Bogarde plays the Macbeth figure, an up-and-coming industrialist who's sleeping with an evil Grande Dame of Nazi finance, Sophie von Essenbeck (Ingrid Thulin, having an absolute ball), heiress to a munitions conglomerate. (The von Essenbecks are loosely based on the Krupps, but don't take this as any sort of literal historiography.) Thulin eggs on her lover Bogarde to commit a few politic murders and a frame-up or two so that he can take over the family business, with herself as the power behind the throne. But she doesn't count on the pathology of her grown son from a previous marriage, the hideous little monster Martin (Helmut Berger, acting terribly but it sort of fits in an Udo Kier-sort of way). Martin is your typical Nazi: a closet pedophile, a drug addict, a transvestite, a momma's-boy, a you-name-it. The scenes involving his seduction of a 9- or 10-year-old girl who lives in a shabby apartment complex are some of the most disturbing that you'll ever see in cinema . . . and along those lines, I seriously wonder about the state of mind of some of the commentators here who find this movie to be high camp, to be watched with drinking buddies. If you think molestation is funny, you'd better see a shrink, pal.
Anyway. The plot is so Byzantine that it finally defeats a brief summary. Let it suffice to say that Visconti manages to cram his complicated story neatly within the historical context of the period between the Reichstag Fire and the Night of the Long Knives, thereby maintaining a nutty observance of Classical Unities. All the while, he films the thing in Hammer-horror Pop color, with intense contrast between shadow and light. The first scene, by the way, is a shot of the blasting furnaces of the munitions factory -- a fitting intro to the horrendous vision of depravity which soon follows. Everyone's sweating in this movie: drops of perspiration trickle down temples, and beads of sweat glisten on upper lips throughout, as if the flames of Hell are licking up at the soles of their collective feet. *The Damned* is a feverish masterpiece. You'll never forget it. Highest recommendation.
(A tip for viewing of the DVD: I recommend that you watch the movie with the English subtitles ON. While everyone speaks English in the film, only Bogarde is clearly intelligible. Owing to the complicated plot, you'll need to know what's going on in order to fully appreciate Visconti's thematic design.)
76 of 95 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this