Should Hermann (Dirk Bogarde) spend his life producing chocolate? An exiled Russian, he has an elegant apartment in Berlin, where he has been living for years. He drives a snazzy little car – a convertible. He is married to Lydia (Andrea Ferréol), a not-so-smart but devoted and absolutely desirable woman. The administration of his firm only keeps him busy a few hours a day. Business stagnates. Presumably a result of the global economic crisis that does not really upset Hermann. Recently, Hermann has the feeling that he could leave his body, step beside it and observe himself. One evening he leaves the living room door open so he, who sits in the living room, can observe how he and Lydia make love. This state of being becomes an addiction for him. He would love to perfect his ability to double himself, would like to bring it to an extreme and to refine it, like it was a creative gift. On a business trip, Hermann meets the tramp Felix (Klaus Löwitsch). He is convinced that Felix is identical to him in all his physical details and they agree to stay in touch by mail (general delivery). Although the existence of his double at first irritates Herman, it becomes a source of inspiration to him after he returns home. What would it be like if he could disappear in order to begin a new life as someone else? Herman plans the perfect and gratifying rebirth for which a tramp is to die – his journey towards light. —Rainer Werner Fassbinder Foundation
Rainer Werner Fassbinder (May 31, 1945 – June 10, 1982) was born into a cultured bourgeois family in the small Bavarian spa town Bad Wörishofen. Raised by his mother as an only child, the boy had only sporadic contact with his father, a doctor, after the divorce of his parents when he was five. Educated at a Rudolf Steiner elementary school and subsequently in Munich and Augsburg, the city of Bert Brecht, he left school before passing any final examinations. A cinema addict (“five times a week, often three films a day”) from a very early age, not least because his mother needed peace and quiet for her work as a translator, “the cinema was the family life I never had at home.”
Fassbinder made his first short films at the age of twenty, persuading a male lover to finance them in exchange for leading roles. He also applied for a place at the Berlin Film School (dffb), but was refused. He acted in both his early films: DER STADTSTREICHER (The City Tramp), which also featured Irm… read more
Fassbinder was out of his comfort zone when he made his first film in the English language so it must have been reassuring for him to cast so many actors in supporting roles who had worked with him several times before. Adapted by Stoppard from a Nabokov novel, Bogarde gives a fine performance as the chocolatier who hatches a plan to escape his troubled life. Rainer Werner's third favourite of all the films he made..
Another thing Fassbinder won't let us kid ourselves about: the liberating possibilities of multiplicity. The sense of the Nabokovian source does not survive the translation to cinema -- we know with a certainty that Hermann's double is no double; the ambiguity of the unreliable narrator becomes more obvious and less interesting here. What we are left with is an insistence upon essences, and that they will always out.
“We sort of do the lineup by the seat of our pants.”
Also: Pacific Standard Time screenings in Los Angeles. And the best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2011.
Updated. Rainer Werner Fassbinder's newly restored Despair (1978) "was one of the hottest tickets in the Classics sidebar" in Cannes this
This final wrap comes with a reminder that all our reviews, interviews and coverage of the coverage is indexed right here. "Throughout her