Despair (Despair - Eine Reise ins Licht) (1978) - Rotten Tomatoes

Despair (Despair - Eine Reise ins Licht) (1978)

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Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Having made as many films as he had years, at 31, Rainer Werner Fassbinder essayed a slightly different approach for his 32nd film, Despair. Here, he uses a witty screenplay written by the well-known playwright Tom Stoppard, based on a novel by Vladimir Nabokov. Furthermore, the entire film, set in 1930s Germany, is in English. It received mixed reviews, if only because it is so unlike the director's other works. In the story, a Russian owner of a German chocolate-factory, whose business and marriage are both on the rocks, fantasizes about leaving his current life, and living another one. Indeed, he has delusions that he is somehow outside himself, watching himself live his life. So strong is his desire to alter his life that when he encounters a tramp while on a brief business trip, he imagines that the man looks exactly like him, decides to exchange identities with the tramp, and murders him. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovi

Cast

Dirk Bogarde
as Hermann Herman
Andrea Ferreol
as Lydia Herman
Klaus Lowitsch
as Felix Weber
Peter Kern
as Muller
Ingrid Caven
as Hotel Receptionist
Liselotte Eder
as Secretary
Y Sa Lo
as Elsie
Hark Bohm
as Doktor
Roger Fritz
as Inspector Braun
Adrian Hoven
as Inspector Schelling
Gottfried John
as Perebrodov
Armin Meier
as 1st and 2nd Twin and Foreman
Hans Zander
as Muller's Brother
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News & Interviews for Despair (Despair - Eine Reise ins Licht)

Critic Reviews for Despair (Despair - Eine Reise ins Licht)

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (7)

Dirk Bogarde, looking natty and nerve-worn, is exactly right as the fissured Hermann, a chocolate manufacturer whose business has turned bitter.

Full Review… | March 18, 2015
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

The first half is oppressive, cluttered, and funny, but as the film forsakes its artificial settings for more open spaces, it becomes pale and mechanical.

Full Review… | March 18, 2015
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Fassbinder films life in the cosseted class as a masque of glass and mirrors, replete with alluring deceptions and suave surfaces that belie volcanic passions.

Full Review… | February 27, 2012
New Yorker
Top Critic

Effortlessly literate [and] gaudily stylish.

Full Review… | January 5, 2012
Time Out
Top Critic

Despite a witty, albeit theatrical, script by Tom Stoppard, prolific German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder does not quite bring off the spirited linguistic innovations, wit and penetrating insights of Vladimir Nabokov's novel.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Variety
Top Critic

Bold, garish and obsessive, but more than a little irritating.

January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Despair (Despair - Eine Reise ins Licht)

Despair is a fun and absurd feature. The filmmaking is reminiscent of Bunuel, especially the upfront symbolic imagery, yet the style is distinctly playful, both camera work and acting.

Robert Brogan
Robert Brogan

Super Reviewer

½

Surrealistic adaptation of Nabokov's is both experimental and oddly poised. From a highly cerebral Stoppard script, Fassbinder propels his film forward using the unsettling staging of his actors and the lushly beautiful work of cinematographer, Michael Ballhaus. The cinematic metaphor is rather clunky, but effective. As the Nazis assume power over Germany a successful chocolate maker begins to slip into existential delusions and the film slips into a mix of psychodrama and film noir. Somehow this experiment works. Dirk Bogarde is especially effective in the lead role. I had read a great deal about this film over the years and agree that DESPAIR was a departure for Fassbinder, but it is firmly rooted in what I would call Fassbinderian Language.

Matty Stanfield
Matty Stanfield
½

As Fassbinder's first film in English, this psychedelic drama may have an intriguing story but the direction is heavy-handed and lacks that conviction found in his earlier works. Especially the tone he adopts seems incompatible with the kind of story he wants to tell.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

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