Hermann, a Russian emigre owner of a failing candy factory, is fed up with his plump wife and has developed a habit of dissociating himself from his body to the point that he can watch himself make love. Confronted with the Nazi rise to power, he ultimately works out a lucrative murder-suicide.
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.
The best thing about the film is the way Fassbinder uses the production design to "imprison" the central character; often shooting him fragmented, through doorways, windows, or as a figure behind panes of glass. It helps to give the impression of a character trapped by the parameters of a situation, or idea, both political and psychological.
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..