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1979 1h 59m Comedy Drama List
65% Tomatometer 23 Reviews 76% Audience Score 500+ Ratings
A Russian chocolate-factory owner (Dirk Bogarde) poses as a look-alike in 1930s Berlin. Read More Read Less

Critics Reviews

View All (23) Critics Reviews
Elliott Stein Film Comment Magazine Despair does absolutely nothing worth doing, but it does succeed in one area where several hack directors before him failed: bagging a bad performance from Dirk Bogarde. Rated: 1/4 Dec 12, 2017 Full Review John Skow TIME Magazine Dirk Bogarde, looking natty and nerve-worn, is exactly right as the fissured Hermann, a chocolate manufacturer whose business has turned bitter. Mar 18, 2015 Full Review Wendy Ide Times (UK) Certainly Dirk Bogarde's performance, although arch and mannered, is uncomfortably compelling. And the cinematography is undeniably striking. But I can't say I enjoyed it. Rated: 2/5 Mar 18, 2015 Full Review Ted Whitehead The Spectator The resultant film is, he says, faithful to both Stoppard's script and Nabokov's novel; it is certainly not faithful to Fassbinder, who is here seen tripping over one style after another and ending up utterly ditched. Mar 18, 2015 Full Review Dennis Schwartz Dennis Schwartz Movie Reviews Unpleasant but thoughtful and provocative psychodrama set in Berlin, in the 1930s. Rated: B+ Jul 30, 2012 Full Review Philip Kemp Total Film Everything about Despair feels queasily off - the plot, the acting, the dialogue and the fussily over-decorated sets. Rated: 2/5 Jan 10, 2012 Full Review Read all reviews

Audience Reviews

View All (17) audience reviews
Audience Member Dirk Bogarde stars in this 1978 Fassbinder film as Hermann, a chocolate factory owner living in Berlin during the Weimar Republic who suffers from dissociation. He dreams of escape. On his travels he meets a homeless man who he thinks can imitate him in a scam. This will involve his faked murder so that he can escape his life. His wife will then receive a substantial insurance pay out because of his supposed death. In reality Hermann will vanish to Switzerland, live below the radar and start a new life. Will Hermann's plan go without a hitch? I love the mystery of this film. It really is a puzzle of a film and sweeps us along on it's gorgeous journey. Twist follows turn and back again.  The whole cast are perfect with Dirk Bogarde being perfect as Hermann. The screenplay is brilliantly adopted from a Nabokov novel by Tom Stoppard with snappy and wicked dialogue that positively crackles. The look of the film is muted and also beautiful because of it. It lends massively to why the film works so well as it's visually and uniformly a treat for the eyes. Enjoy the ride which will keep you guessing until the final frame. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/19/23 Full Review Audience Member 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. Rated 4 out of 5 stars 01/15/23 Full Review Audience Member I would have met Fassbinder to congrats to him Rated 4 out of 5 stars 02/25/23 Full Review Audience Member I wish I had watched a double of this movie instead, one that wasn't so metaphysical or psychological. A poor imposter for criticism of the bourgeoisie, capitalism, nazism/fascism. Rated 3 out of 5 stars 01/24/23 Full Review Audience Member 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. Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars 01/29/23 Full Review Audience Member 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. Rated 2.5 out of 5 stars 02/14/23 Full Review Read all reviews

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Movie Info

Synopsis A Russian chocolate-factory owner (Dirk Bogarde) poses as a look-alike in 1930s Berlin.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Peter Märthesheimer
Tom Stoppard
Comedy, Drama
Original Language
Release Date (DVD)
Oct 1, 2015
1h 59m