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Despair (1978)

Dirk Bogarde , Andréa Ferréol , Rainer Werner Fassbinder  |  Unrated |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Dirk Bogarde, Andréa Ferréol, Klaus Löwitsch, Peter Kern
  • Directors: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Writers: Tom Stoppard, Vladimir Nabokov
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Widescreen, Anamorphic, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: Unrated
  • Studio: Olive Films
  • DVD Release Date: June 7, 2011
  • Run Time: 121 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004RBC5JW
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,254 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Based on the classic novel by Vladimir Nabokov with screenplay adaptation by Tom Stoppard. In early 1930s Germany, against the backdrop of the Nazis' rise to power, Hermann Hermann (Dirk Bogard), a Russian emigrant and successful chocolate magnate, starts experiencing mental breakdowns. He soon meets Felix, an unemployed laborer, who Hermann believes to be his doppelganger. He hatches up an elaborate plot, which he believes will free him of all his worries and nightmares. Cinematography by legendary DP, Michael Ballhaus (Goodfellas). Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder (Berlin Alexanderplatz).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wouldn't "Insanity" be a better name?...Perhaps not. September 28, 2008
Format:VHS Tape|Verified Purchase
Dirk Bogarde does an excellent job in portraying a once-Hungarian, now German, who inherited a chocolate factory (do NOT think Willy Wonka!)from his father-in law. It's the early '30s; times are getting harder and harder. He's married to a perhaps attractive to him at one time (but not to him anymore--if ever) vapid German Jew, and is intelligent enough to see that--times will get even worse. He hates his life, increasingly, and more and more--stands apart from it (at the beginning of the film, while he is making love to his wife, he sees himself sitting against the wall of the room, observing the operation). He seems to relate to no one, and perhaps doesn't know how to, or even want to. Gradually, he sinks into insanity. He thinks he has hatched a scheme to make a "killing,"--but he hasn't. He mearly kills.

The film is so dark, and angular, and (occasionally) arty, that only Bogarde's acting (the rest of the cast is good, too) makes it really worth owning--but it should be seen, for that reason alone. As often with depictions of the insane, one is occasionally confused as to what is really happening, and what the protagonist THINKS is happening.

It's a very cold movie, and there's nothing to laugh at. For instance: early in the film, the protagonist has travelled some distance to do business with another chocolate manufacturer--and, for some reason, starts telling him a little about his life. He mentions his wife's dowrey--her weight in gold coin. "Upon examination," he says coldly, scornfully, despairingly, "the gold coins proved to be chocolate." Ordinarily, this line might evoke laughter, but because of the way he says it, it doesn't.

There is nothing to love. The sub-title ("A Journey into Light") is almost diametrically opposed to the truth of the story.

My VHS tape played perfectly, with no halts, fading, or extraneous background noises.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DESPAIR-15th SEPTEMBER, reg. 2 already released! May 20, 2011
If you can't wait until November, DESPAIR has already been released in reg. 2 by EuroVideo Bravo to Bavaria Media's gorgeous restored print by the original D.P. Michael Ballhaus. This was the print chosen for screening at the 2011 Cannes Classics.

Gems from the archives: probing interviews with RAINER WERNER FASSBINDER;
New Interviews: leading lady, ANDREA FERREOL, Dir. of Photography MICHAEL BALLHAUS, TOM STOPPARD, screenwriter, and others.

The superb British actor DIRK BOGARDE puts in a masterful performance as a man slowly disintegrating into madness. Beautifully lit and staged, this is a film that will also make you think and then watch it again to catch nuances you missed in the first viewing. Fassbinder and Bogarde at their best.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It doesn't get much better than this with Fassbinder August 1, 2013
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
This was a stopover film for Werner Rainer Fassbinder in 1978 before he'd have his international hit with The Marriage of Maria Braun. Despair was his first real attempts at depicting Weimar Germany as a director (he'd produced & done a cameo in Ulli Lommel's The Tenderness of Wolves in 1973 about the serial child killer Peter Kürten) and is based on an early novel by Vladimir Nabokov, adapted by the great playwright Tom Stoppard who's best known for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead. (He also went on to co-author the screenplay for Terry Gilliam's Brazil)

This is a tale of false doubles and one more example of Nabokov's use of the "unreliable narrator," a theme he was apparently fond of, but then, what's not to like about watching annoyingly delusional people undoing themselves? There are many changes to the source story here in Fassbinder and Stoppard's version making it utterly unique and something that could only be a Fassbinder film about the doomed. Placing it around the era it was written and published could only emphasize the descent into--yes--despair and madness that's typical of many of the characters in his oeuvre. But this time around, I don't think Fassbinder empathized very much with the character, which is fine, he doesn't need to. Herman's a Russian emigre with a shadowy past in Berlin (in Nabokov's novel it's Prague) who's made it rich as a chocolate confectioner with a rapidly failing business thanks to the Depression, is married to a seemingly amnesiac but bubbly wife who might be cheating on him with her "cousin," and is rapidly losing his mind, all in the midst of the rise of National Socialism. The atmosphere is of a kind of giddy slide into madness with some very dark undertones.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last, a superb HD print of a very good film! December 24, 2011
By Robert
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
Out of all the hard-to-find movies in the days of VHS & then, up until summer 2011, DVD, 'Despair' was one of the rarest. Now Olive Films have given us a beautiful transfer which is one example of how brilliant and perfect a Blu-ray disc can and should look. With the documentary of over 70 mins, this Blu-ray is well worth it! And for those of you who don't have an American Zone A Blu-ray player, don't worry, this disc is ZONE FREE!
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