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Germany, 1978 (MIFF 1980, Programme 4)

Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Fassbinder is the wonder-boy of the performing arts, turning out fully developed plays, films and television productions of his own with insistent regularity, and still finding time to appear in other people's films and follow the fortunes of Bayern Munich, one of Europe's great football teams.

Despair was an unusual undertaking for Fassbinder, a big-budget international production and the only one of his films to be made in English. It is also the only one of his films where he has not had a substantial hand in the script. The script here is by British playwright Tom Stoppard, who adapted it from Vladimir Nabokov's novel.

Stoppard's is a genial script, covering the last days of the Weimar Republic and the threat it unleashed. Fassbinder was undoubtedly attracted to a subject that is often featured in German art, the split personality of the human being, the problem of identity and the flight into fantasy.

The plot concerns a Russian emigre living in Berlin as a chocolate manufacturer. He suffers increasingly from the compulsive urge to observe himself as a stranger. He meets a tramp whom he thinks resembles him and this stimulates him to plan his own death and collect the insurance.

"Fassbinder's direction is technically brilliant, appearing deliberately cool and often sarcastic. He paints a world in the process of dilapidation, in which people move like puppets to their own destruction. Dirk Bogarde, sensitive as ever, and the voluptuous Andrea Ferreol, provide the film (shot in English) with the flair and subtlety of the author of Lolita — himself, of course, a Russian Emigre". Edmund Luft. International Film Guide.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder — Born 1946.

Feature films — Love is Colder than Death (1969), Katzelmacher (1969), Gods of the Plague (1969), Why Does Herr Ft. Run Amok (1969), Rio das Mortes (1970), Whity (1970), Die Niklashauser Fahrt (1970), The American Soldier (1970), Beware of a Holy Whore (1970), Pioneers in Ingolstadt (1970), The Merchant of Four Seasons (1971), The Bitter Tears ofPetra von Kant (1972), Wildwechsel (1972), Fear Eats the Soul (1973), Martha (1973), Effi Briest (1974), Fox and his Friends (1975), Mother Kuster's Trip to Heaven (1975), Fear of Fear (1975), Satan's Brew (1976), Chinese Roulette (1976), Die Frauen in New York (1977), Despair (1978), Germany in Autumn (one episode) (1978), The Marriage of Maria Braun (1978), In a Year of Thirteen Moons (1979).

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