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Dirk Bogarde, Andrea Ferreol, Volker Spengler, Klaus Lowitsch, Alexander Allerson ... see more see more... , Isolde Barth , Hark Bohm , Ingrid Caven , Liselotte Eder , Roger Fritz , Voli Geiler , Gottfried John , Peter Kern , Y Sa Lo , Armin Meier , Hans Zander , Adrian Hoven , Bernhard Wicki

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 ... read more read more...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

Flixster Users

78% liked it

492 ratings

Critics

71% liked it

14 critics

Unrated, 2 hr.

Directed by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Release Date: May 19, 1978

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DVD Release Date: December 30, 1988

Stats: 30 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (30)


  • August 19, 2013
    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.
  • June 12, 2011
    Personally, I think this is one of Bogarde's finest roles.

Critic Reviews


Richard Brody
February 27, 2012
Richard Brody, New Yorker

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

January 26, 2006
Time Out

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

Vincent Canby
May 9, 2005
Vincent Canby, New York Times

The Stoppard script is a joy for anyone who likes the English language. Full Review

Dennis Schwartz
July 30, 2012
Dennis Schwartz, Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Unpleasant but thoughtful and provocative psychodrama set in Berlin, in the 1930s. Full Review

Philip Kemp
January 10, 2012
Philip Kemp, Total Film

Everything about Despair feels queasily off - the plot, the acting, the dialogue and the fussily over-decorated sets. Full Review

Peter Bradshaw
January 5, 2012
Peter Bradshaw, Guardian

A superb surrealist noir. Full Review

Jeffrey M. Anderson
June 10, 2011
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid

Not one of [Fassbinder's] best. Full Review

Simon Abrams
June 7, 2011
Simon Abrams, Slant Magazine

Of the authorial trifecta that created Despair, director Rainer Werner Fassbinder's voice is the most pronounced. Full Review

Fernando F. Croce
February 4, 2010
Fernando F. Croce, CinePassion

A lambent house of cards Full Review

September 18, 2006
TV Guide's Movie Guide

It is beautifully photographed by Ballhaus in a frame filled with reflective glass and mirrors. Full Review

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