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Despair [DVD] [1978]

Dirk Bogarde , Andréa Ferréol , Rainer Werner Fassbinder    Suitable for 15 years and over   DVD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: £10.50 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Product details

  • Actors: Dirk Bogarde, Andréa Ferréol, Klaus Löwitsch
  • Directors: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
  • Format: PAL
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Park Circus
  • DVD Release Date: 23 April 2012
  • Run Time: 119 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 42,949 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

Chocolate, cuckoldry and doppelganger delusion abound in Rainer Werner Fassbinder's stunning English language adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov interwar novel.

The chocolate business has been good to Russian exile Hermann. He enjoys the good life with his beautiful wife Lydia. But Hermann is addicted to out-of-body experiences and when he meets a tramp on a business trip, he develops an insane plan of escape.

Featuring international stars Dirk Bogarde (Death in Venice) and Andréa Ferréol (La Grande Bouffe) and adapted by British dramatist Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love), Fassbinder s Despair is a vivid off-kilter masterwork set against the background of the Nazis in ascendance. This DVD version of Fassbinder s most optimistic film is accompanied by exclusive bonus material.


Documentary "The Cinema and It Double" (70 minutes)

Image gallery

Awards and Accreditations:

A Cannes Classic and Nominated for Palme d Or

German Film Awards (1978): Outstanding Individual Achievement: Direction for Rainer Werner Fassbinder

Outstanding Individual Achievement: Cinematography for Michael Balhaus.

Outstanding Individual Achievement: Production Design for Rolf Zehetbauer

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Journey into the Light 29 May 2012
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
This was Rainer Werner Fassbinder's first of three films in English, a language he was not fluent in, the other two were Lili Marleen (1980) and his final film Querelle (1982). It was the first time that Fassbinder had not written the screenplay, instead it was written by the British playwright Tom Stoppard who, by his own admission, was not a screenwriter and did not find the task very easy transcribing it from a novel by the Russian Vladimir Nabokov. Also this was the directors first large scale international production with a budget larger than the combined budget for his first fifteen movies. Michael Ballhous the films director of photography was quoted as saying "It was of a standard and a budget that we had never done before, a great experience for all of us (the crew) involved being able to make the film under Hollywood conditions" Unlike previous Rainer Werner Fassbinder films he had a decent amount of time allocated to shoot the film.

Fassbinder, was at the pinnacle of his creativity and his ability, found himself working along side international stars the caliber of Dirk Bogarde, enticed out of semi-retirement to work with the German New Wave director, and French actress Andrea Ferreol, whose debut film La Grande bouffe (1973) had coursed quite a sensation at the Cannes Film Festival. Un-be-known to the director this beautiful voluptuous actress had to learn English to play the part of Lydia!

The chocolate manufacturer Herman Herman (Bogarde) an exiled Russian, is having a mid-life crisis. His wife Lydia (Ferreol), a child woman, is in a strange relationship with her `cousin', his business is on the verge of bankruptcy and the National Socialists are gaining ground.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Have you no sense of indecency?" 16 July 2013
By Trevor Willsmer HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Intended as his big break into the international mainstream only to meet a disastrous reception at Cannes and indifference from the moviegoing public, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Despair is neither lost masterpiece nor total failure. Inspired by a Vladimir Nabokov novel, it follows Dirk Bogarde's successful chocolateer as he is constantly driven by the need to destroy his comfortable invented life, whether by confessing to unlikely family secrets that will outrage those he's in business negotiations with or offending his employees ("Have you joined the boy scouts or something?" he asks a new recruit to the Nazi Party. "Most appropriate - a chocolate covered jacket"). He literally observes his own life with cold indifference as if he were two separate people, the film settling for casual confusion as to which of the two Hermann Hermanns is real. With his very name and psyche already predisposed to the idea of a double life, a silent movie gives him the idea for the perfect solution to his existential inertia - find a double, murder him and start a new life with the insurance money. Only the double (Klaus Lowitsch) looks nothing like him, the killing is botched and the false trail he lays to mislead the police and those around him naturally fools no-one...

It's a film that, in its surviving two hour form, never really comes together, Tom Stoppard's script filled with intriguing ideas and Fassbinder's direction the odd striking visual - not least the array of glass corridors, cages and labyrinths that limit Hermann's freedom and constantly hem him in - that it never makes enough of en route to its Sunset Boulevard-inspired ending.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing favourite but also a puzzle. 22 July 2014
By justin
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I saw this film on it's initial release at the Screen on the Green , Belsize Park , 1978 - when I was working as a junior at HMV Oxford Street and preparing to apply for a College Scholarship.You can imagine the surprise the audience felt back then at such a surreal film by Fassbinder.Even then I was a committed Dirk Bogarde fan , as soon as I turned 18 years old I took the opportunity to see ' The Night Porter ' and 'Death in Venice ' at the Sherlock Holmes Cinema on Baker Street. Both films impressed me enormously.Even today I find parts of 'Despair ' a puzzle but I watch it for glorious colour photography , costumes and European setting. I was dissappointed when Sir Dirk Bogarde returned to England to live , after twenty years in France and Italy he was the most famous Englishmen living in Europe -he blended in well with European cinema and seemed totally European in style (doing his finest work out there). Sir Dirk returning to live in grotty ,dirty London was like Sean Connery returning from the Bahamas to live in the tenements of the 'Gorbels',Glasgow.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a little vague 15 Jun 2012
By Davy L
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This is one of those films where the direction, acting, script, set design and overall production is great but yet it does'nt quite fully work (for me). I don't know enough about cinematic technique to know why this appears to be the case. i know there are others who feel it is Fassbinder's masterpiece. Despite Bogard's great performance i can't help wonder if it may have worked better with one of his regular actors, and in German.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wouldn't "Insanity" be a better name?...Perhaps not. 29 Sep 2008
By Julie Vognar - Published on
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Dirk Bogarde does an excellent job in portraying a once-Hungarian, now German, who inherited a chocolate factory (do NOT think Willy Wonka!)from his father-in law. It's the early '30s; times are getting harder and harder. He's married to a perhaps attractive to him at one time (but not to him anymore--if ever) vapid German Jew, and is intelligent enough to see that--times will get even worse. He hates his life, increasingly, and more and more--stands apart from it (at the beginning of the film, while he is making love to his wife, he sees himself sitting against the wall of the room, observing the operation). He seems to relate to no one, and perhaps doesn't know how to, or even want to. Gradually, he sinks into insanity. He thinks he has hatched a scheme to make a "killing,"--but he hasn't. He mearly kills.

The film is so dark, and angular, and (occasionally) arty, that only Bogarde's acting (the rest of the cast is good, too) makes it really worth owning--but it should be seen, for that reason alone. As often with depictions of the insane, one is occasionally confused as to what is really happening, and what the protagonist THINKS is happening.

It's a very cold movie, and there's nothing to laugh at. For instance: early in the film, the protagonist has travelled some distance to do business with another chocolate manufacturer--and, for some reason, starts telling him a little about his life. He mentions his wife's dowrey--her weight in gold coin. "Upon examination," he says coldly, scornfully, despairingly, "the gold coins proved to be chocolate." Ordinarily, this line might evoke laughter, but because of the way he says it, it doesn't.

There is nothing to love. The sub-title ("A Journey into Light") is almost diametrically opposed to the truth of the story.

My VHS tape played perfectly, with no halts, fading, or extraneous background noises.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars DESPAIR-15th SEPTEMBER, reg. 2 already released! 20 May 2011
By Hargreaves - Published on
If you can't wait until November, DESPAIR has already been released in reg. 2 by EuroVideo Bravo to Bavaria Media's gorgeous restored print by the original D.P. Michael Ballhaus. This was the print chosen for screening at the 2011 Cannes Classics.

Gems from the archives: probing interviews with RAINER WERNER FASSBINDER;
New Interviews: leading lady, ANDREA FERREOL, Dir. of Photography MICHAEL BALLHAUS, TOM STOPPARD, screenwriter, and others.

The superb British actor DIRK BOGARDE puts in a masterful performance as a man slowly disintegrating into madness. Beautifully lit and staged, this is a film that will also make you think and then watch it again to catch nuances you missed in the first viewing. Fassbinder and Bogarde at their best.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It doesn't get much better than this with Fassbinder 1 Aug 2013
By Matthew H. Janovic - Published on
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
This was a stopover film for Werner Rainer Fassbinder in 1978 before he'd have his international hit with The Marriage of Maria Braun. Despair was his first real attempts at depicting Weimar Germany as a director (he'd produced & done a cameo in Ulli Lommel's The Tenderness of Wolves in 1973 about the serial child killer Peter Kürten) and is based on an early novel by Vladimir Nabokov, adapted by the great playwright Tom Stoppard who's best known for Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead. (He also went on to co-author the screenplay for Terry Gilliam's Brazil)

This is a tale of false doubles and one more example of Nabokov's use of the "unreliable narrator," a theme he was apparently fond of, but then, what's not to like about watching annoyingly delusional people undoing themselves? There are many changes to the source story here in Fassbinder and Stoppard's version making it utterly unique and something that could only be a Fassbinder film about the doomed. Placing it around the era it was written and published could only emphasize the descent into--yes--despair and madness that's typical of many of the characters in his oeuvre. But this time around, I don't think Fassbinder empathized very much with the character, which is fine, he doesn't need to. Herman's a Russian emigre with a shadowy past in Berlin (in Nabokov's novel it's Prague) who's made it rich as a chocolate confectioner with a rapidly failing business thanks to the Depression, is married to a seemingly amnesiac but bubbly wife who might be cheating on him with her "cousin," and is rapidly losing his mind, all in the midst of the rise of National Socialism. The atmosphere is of a kind of giddy slide into madness with some very dark undertones. Herman wants to escape his life and finds his "doppleganger," his twin--only the tramp, the bum he runs into in a park (played by the late & great Fassbinder player Klaus Löwitsch), concocts a plot to fake his death by killing the transient bum who looks nothing like him to create the "ultimate crime," and so on, you know where it's headed, this is Fassbinder, a great film, but not for everyone.

I noticed that DVD Beaver wasn't entirely pleased with the transfer to this, which makes no sense: this is one of the sharpest, finest transfers I've ever seen of a Fassbinder film or even many others on Blu-ray. They might want to get their eyes checked here, because it's one of the best restorations to come along outside of Citizen Kane or any other number of classics. The bitrate averages very high and the audio, while original mono, is very high resolution, so I don't know how they got the impression that Olive Films didn't do their best here, they did. Normally, they don't include any extras, but here we get an extraordinary documentary on the making of the film that includes interview footage with Fassbinder that I don't think anyone in the viewing public's seen, maybe ever. Olive also seems to have sprung part of the money for the restoration of the film with Bavaria Media, the original producers of the film, and the Fassbinder Foundation. Not a lot of films look this good in HD, so I don't understand what the criticisms are about, they make no sense.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last, a superb HD print of a very good film! 24 Dec 2011
By Robert - Published on
Format:Blu-ray|Verified Purchase
Out of all the hard-to-find movies in the days of VHS & then, up until summer 2011, DVD, 'Despair' was one of the rarest. Now Olive Films have given us a beautiful transfer which is one example of how brilliant and perfect a Blu-ray disc can and should look. With the documentary of over 70 mins, this Blu-ray is well worth it! And for those of you who don't have an American Zone A Blu-ray player, don't worry, this disc is ZONE FREE!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars missing him 22 July 2012
By GYSPY SEEKER - Published on
Verified Purchase
i just loved favorites - death in venice and night porter. so many of the best are no longer with us thank God we have their works
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