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4.2 out of 5 stars
Damage
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83 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2001
As is true with the novel, _Damage_ the film is not for everyone. If you are easily offended or prudish in any manner, skip this one. I have talked with a few people who rented the film because they were fans of Jeremy Irons but were upset by the premise of the movie. So, as I said, if you are easily offended, skip _Damage_.
Stephen Fleming (Jeremy Irons) is a prominent MP with a career that continues to blossom. He is married to an attractive, blueblood wife and has two healthy children. His son, Martyn (Rupert Graves), is doing well for himself: he has met a new girlfriend and has been promoted to an important position as political writer for a newspaper. Stephen and Anna (Juliette Binoche) meet at a party or get-together of some sort and discover an instant attraction. Stephen finds out shortly thereafter that Anna is Martyn's girlfriend. Within days, a steamy, destructive sexual relationship begins between Anna and Stephen. It continues, growing increasingly passionate, obsessive and harmful. In an odd (even wacky) twist of fate, their affair is discovered. Anna flees in her usual pattern and Stephen must return to his wife, Ingrid (Miranda Richardson), to see if he can possibly salvage his marriage.
Aside from the plot being centered around a man cheating on his wife with his son's girlfriend, the intense sex scenes in the film will likely turn some people off. I have seen both the R-rated and the Unrated version of the film and I cannot tell any difference between them so whichever one you choose, you are sure to see plenty of skin. After I watched the film, I read the novel by Josephine Hart and felt that I understood the characters much better. Although Stephen does inspire some feelings of repulsion from me, I do feel sympathy for him. He has lived a life of routine and boredom. As Louis Malle discusses in the "One on One" feature found on this DVD, the family life Stephen has experienced is one built on habit, not on strong emotions. When Anna comes along, something snaps. All of the emotions that Stephen has bottled up come rushing out like a floodgate that has burst. I suppose, all explanations and interpretations aside, that in the end, _Damage_ is the kind of film a person with either love or hate, understand or misapprehend. If you enjoy films about forbidden love or love gone wrong, _Damage_ is certainly for you.
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59 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2005
Do not read this review if you haven't seen the movie. I happened to see this movie for the third time a few nights ago. It came on at midnight, and I had to work in the morning, but I had to watch it again. I have read many of the reviews on this site, and though most of them grasp the primary messages in this devastating story, I read none that expressed what I feel is the most frightening aspect of the lessons to be found here. It is not just that obsession or obsessive love or obsessive sexual attraction is damaging. Here is a woman who had already been through this situation, albeit with different characters, and though she new the outcome, she could not help but to dive headlong into it. Her brother had killed himself because he couldn't tolerate the reality that she - for whom he had an obsessive and forbidden love - would love someone else. She had returned from a tryst to find her brother dead. Here, she plays with the fire of her fiance's father, and she "returns" from this tryst with her fiance dead. Though his death was arguably accidental, it is not a stretch to believe that he wished to die at the moment he discovered his father and his betrothed together. Thus she is, and will always be, an agent of damage, and the message she herself delivered to her lover - that she is dangerous because she is a survivor - fell on deaf ears. The father was thus warned twice - by the lover and the lover's mother. The father was not just unleashing bottled up passion - he was acting out a slow suidice. Some have said that Binoche's acting was not good in this film - that she was psychopathic, cold, unemotional. I believe she played it perfectly - a woman afraid of and resigned to her own destiny. Her apparent lack of emotion I saw as resigned awe that this man would desire, to his ultimate destruction, a woman as damaged as she. The message for me is found in the repetition of events and the inevitability of destiny - that in fact it may be impossible to overcome what is meant for a person and for those who come in contact with that person no matter what is accomplished in the name of healing. I am going to stop here. As a reached the end of watching this movie for the third time the other night, I realized that I could probably write a book about it. Sparing myself, however, I'm not going to do that. I highly recommend this movie if you can handle and/or enjoy the very darkest of the dark in human existence.
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on February 5, 2000
I routinely go on Juliette Binoche hunts. From Andre Techine's "Rendezvous", through Phil Kaufman's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being", and Kieslowski's spectacular "Blue", there is only one way to Anthony Minghella's "The English Patient", and Chatal Ackerman's "Couch in New York" and that road goes right through Louie Malle's "Damage".
I am just young enough to have missed Malle in his prime, my perspective and morality just askew enough to not fully appreciate say `Pretty Baby" or "Lacombe Lucien" even his wonderful "Atlantic City" eluded me for some time.
But Damage, from the extremely short novel of Josephine Hart is a story that must be told, and Louie Malle is a superb storyteller. American movie-goers tend to shy from the psychological drama, of which this film is a superb example, as they somewhat shy away from the movies lead, Jeremy Irons.
Iron's character, Fleming is a Minister in the cabinet of the British Prime Minister. He's from proper upbringing, his stance is rigid, his tone short and dismissive-he's a man holding in his gut for the entirety of his life who's getting ready to pop all his buttons in one fail swoop.
His distraction for Anna (Binoche) the fiancée of his only son, has an intensity that is combustible and I would be derelict to tell any more of the tale.
Not for all tastes, maybe not even for all mature tastes, but when you're in the mood for something adult, something intense, I suggest you look here.
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46 of 54 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2005
SPOILER ALERT!!!!

I would like to address some of the comments from other reviewers about this movie.

First of all, a lot of people seem irritated by the sex scenes. I would agree that these scenes of supposed lust are hardly titillating, but then I think that is the point. The overriding emotion seems to be more about urgency and desperation than desire. In fact, for all the intervening moments depicting heavy-lidded gazes and locked stares, the sex scenes themselves show the characters as being engaged in a sort of parallel experience rather than mutually involved. The parts where they do seem aware of each other have them performing acts that are almost more combative than communal. Perhaps that's overstating the case, but these people are not making love or even engaging in a grand passion so much as reveling in a kind of compulsive self-indulgence.

That leads me to my next point: many comments have been made about the lack of motivation for Irons' obsession with Binoche. While her involvement is slowly revealed as being a result of her twisted past and subsequent sick need to keep recreating it, his is so obvious as to be easily overlooked as just too simplistic: his obsession is all with himself. He has reached a point where a lifelong's worth of polite detachment is momentarily overcome, but it's not about her at all; it's completely about him. She is merely a catalyst, having been in the right place at the right time (or wrong, as it turns out) to start the chain reaction. Her emotional makeup makes her precisely the right candidate to spark his exploration of his own carnality. He doesn't fear hurting her--she is damaged already. Any fears of hurting his family are negligible compared to the vigor and rigor and sheer chaotic triumph of coming face-to-face with his own Id.

He pretty much spells it out at the end when he describes seeing her at the airport--"She was with Peter; she was holding a baby....She looked...just like anyone else." He can't remember what he saw in her. She wasn't remarkable enough to have caused such a cascade of destruction. That's because he wasn't responding to her so much as to something within himself. To put it somewhat graphically, whenever they got together, he was never inside *her* so much as he was going to a place deep in *himself*, and I think the photography tended to impart that, as well. While showing some of their most rapturous expressions, the camera had their nether regions almost in separate zip codes.

So why does he sit nearly trancelike before the giant portrait of the ill-fated trio? Is he reliving the hours and days, limited though they were, when he was utterly unbridled? Is he trying to make sense of what happened to him, to all of them? Is it a form of penance? Is he repining for precious things that are lost?

I think the first explanation the most likely. Although his life in Portugal appears to be a self-imposed exile, I feel he is no less disconnected now from life and other people than he ever was. He just isn't pretending any longer that it is anything different. And so he is living completely on his own terms at last without the imposition of societal expectations or relationships. He is essentially unchanged.

His wife had it wrong when she said for every person there is only one other person. For her, she says, it was her son and for Irons, it was Binoche. Then she wonders who it is for Binoche, and Irons gives her a very arrested look. We are to believe he is stunned by the realization that he isn't, and never was, the one.

Instead, he is acknowledging to himself that Binoche was only a vehicle for his self-expression. Later, he hunts her down in hopes of proving that's not true, that his son didn't die as a result of the father's supreme self-indulgence, but he finds that is exactly the case. There is no real connection between the two lovers.

Ultimately, she is left trapped in her sense of inevitability, and he is freed from the inevitable trappings of the respectable life.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2001
Extremely well acted, great movie. Damage is both compelling and disturbing in its realism and psychological content. The intimate scenes between Irons' and Binoche's characters are some of the few that I can actually watch without laughing--the scenes are very mature and believable, as opposed to movies that seem to pander to a goofy teenage audience. The obsessive attraction is also very believable. The first time I watched this film a couple years ago, I too felt somewhat as some critics do--that there was no reason for the obsession between the two. However, having actually been there (unfortunately), I now appreciate even more the seemingly "inexplicable" nature of obsessions. There is often no "one" reason. Just many subtle nuances and coincidental timing that happen in real life--and that Malle has portrayed in this film as beautifully and disturbingly realistic as possible.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2005
I was lucky enough to see this film in the theatre. I was invited as a guest and went without much expectation of the film or it's players and left feeling like I had truly witnessed greateness. Yet, the film was so intense that I never watched it again.

Until a few days ago that is, and even after these years have passed and we have other quality films about the powerful obsessive quality of sexuality, like "swimming pool" and "secretary", this film takes the cake-mostly because unlike the fims, Damage isn't a mystery or a undergroud love story. This movie isn't about love, though the characters involved all love either other very deeply. THis is a movie about how sexual forces, made even more powerful by taboo and denial, can trump love. It's not a movie about the weakness of love by any means, but a story about how sometimes, the primal forces of biology and evolution mixed with modern repression can implode, forcing love into a kind of regretful subliminal message.

Other reviewers called the drama's central characters, played by Binoche and Irons, selfish and destructive etc. etc. But frankly, to me they seem completely and totally human, rutting in the streets without a single thought to their super egos, wholly moved by their Id. The films central message, i.e. that you can perhaps hide from your id or your primal destiny but that it will find you anyway, isn't a very popular one here in america, but one that would be very familiar to our greatest film makers, Woody Allen being the one that comes first to mind. "The heart wants what it wants." (And so does your body)

Pieces of art like this one, that dare to tell the truth about the whole of human nature are so important, especially now, when the morality police are in full swing. So if you have a chance take a look at this moody, shattering drama, please do.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2001
While a sonically quiet and slow paced film, "Damage" is a rich character portrait and finally devastating story. Something about the sphinx-like, mysterious Binoche character connects with the stuffy, self constrained Irons character, and immediately illicit action leads to betrayal and emotional subterfuge.
While it isn't spelled out what attracts the Binoche character to her fiance's father, the nature of the fiance's attractiveness to grief-torn Binoche provides hints. The eroticism of the illicit liaison is powerful but unique in cinema, and here the quietness of the film works to its storytelling advantage. The cinematography, costuming, and set design contribute a great deal to the total context of the narrative. The film is well acted, with the four main leads all providing top notch work. This character study is absorbing but disquieting; as we watch the events unfold we are disturbed but somehow cannot disconnect from the tragic decisions the characters make. Louis Malle created something very special in this film. Highly recommended to grownups who appreciate personality study and complexity of motivation.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 4, 2011
We've seen men cheat on their wives before (and women on their husbands...see Unfaithful or Revenge) and we've seen first glances/smoldering looks between two people that were so hot the screen shorted out (see 9 1/2 Weeks, or the look Ray Liotta gives Madeleine Stowe as she comes down the stairs in Unlawful Entry [in that movie, the lust is NOT returned, and he's nuts! But I still love that look]; or Fatal Attraction at the morning meeting they have when his wife leaves town), though that of the characters in THIS film have topped anything I have ever seen. Never seen two movie characters look at each other for that long, with that much sexual tension, wordlessly. And again, esp. with Irons, it's all in the eyes. THAT is one amazing actor.

Also, I've never seen two not-conventionally-attractive people make forbidden sex so sexy. Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche...I don't think anyone else could have played these parts. It's a testament to their acting (they are both Oscar winners...though not for this film) that this is such a great movie, in my opinion (I gave it four stars, not five, because I just rarely give anything five stars...when I do, you know it's off the charts!). They acted SO MUCH with their eyes. It really is something to behold.

I disagree with anyone who poo-poos the sex scenes, which get more...naked as the movies progresses. I think they are NOT sleazy. They are sometimes urgent and sometimes sensual and sometimes literally fumbling with desire. The urgency, the wordlessness, the we-must-do-it NOW, the tension when they are with the family (she is engaged to his son, for those who don't know)...it's brilliantly done, and again, that has everything to do with the actors. He's old and a little haggard and she's a little bit butchy when dressed, but the scenes are are HOT and well executed. They are risking everything (and yes, there's a train wreck coming, of course) and that's hot, too. They know it, and they just can't stop it. He tries to but she rents them an apartment and they are back at it again. She wants to have the best of both worlds (marriage to Martyn, and hot sex with his father), Irons wants to leave his wife (or thinks he does) but Binoche makes a great point: What would you gain? You'd have what you have right now, plus a broken marriage. And do you REALLY want to have breakfast and read the paper with me every morning?

Louis Malle (late husband of Candice Bergen, of all people!) is obviously a brilliant director. You don't see this kind of stuff except from Adrian Lyne (9.5 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Unfaithful). Well done; a great movie.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2010
This is a movie for the middle aged: after a successful career and the nurture of a perfect family, a man chucks it all for the wrong woman. He is exhausted from his idyllic life and meaningful career, seeking a way out, and finds it. Everyone loses.

The story unfolds in absolutely horrific fashion, complete with the graphic portrayal of the passion that becomes the only thing at the center of his life. You watch with a mix of titillation and disgust at the downward spiral. For a long time, I could not understand the Binoche character: she seemed like a doll, an empty vessel for pleasure with no sexual boundaries while protecting her inner self. Then I realized that, I believe, she felt so empty and "damaged" that she needed to fill the space through sex; unstable by nature, she would be disastrous as an investment in life, but with the ability to throw herself into sex with total passion. A new kind of femme fatale. Binoche makes her extremely subtle and enigmatic.

As always with Malle, there are many levels on which the film can be viewed, an extraordinarily rich viewing experience that can be viewed many times, that is, if you can tolerate the pain and catastophe. The acting is absolutely first rate and endlessly evocative in the way cinema can offer a window into life is seconds of an expression. It is true art.

Recommended with enthusiasm and an equal measure of revulsion.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 6, 1999
No one does obsession better than Jeremy Irons. His face could be a billboard for pain. And passion, too. If you've ever been obsessed with someone(and who hasn't?), you must see this remarkable movie. The photographic image at the end-the only remnant of the Irons' character's former life-is unforgettable. Miranda Richardson is entirely credible as the wife and mother. If tragedy struck my own son, I'd likely act exactly the same way. Juliette Binoche is incredible. Yes these are rich, beautiful people but the story's so REAL! This is a movie to see again and again. Tell your friends, your neighbours, the clerk at the corner store. Only one movie to watch for the rest of my life? Damage. Damage. Damage. Does anyone out there feel the same way?
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