Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Damned (1969)

Luchino Visconti's The Damned is a very complex movie and should be watched more than once. The story is about the Essenbeck family in Germany who owns a steel factory. It begins in February 1933 with the birthday celebration for Joachim von Essenbeck, who has most of the factory shares. In this party we are introduced to the family members: Herbert Thallman, his wife Elizabeth, and their two daughters Thilde and Erika; Konstantin (a member of SA) and his son Gunther (a student); Frederick Bruckmann, an executive from the factory who is also the lover of Sophie (Joachim's daughter-in-law. His only son has died as a war hero.), Martin (Sophie's son), and Aschenbach (an SS captain). The celebration is interrupted by the news of the Reichstag (the parliament building) Fire. Herbert, who is a liberal, has a dispute with Konstantin, and the conservative Joachim takes this opportunity to choose his successor: Konstantin. The ambitious Frederick, with Aschenbach's support, asks Sophie to help him getting the power. On that night, Joachim is murdered and Herbert runs away to Austria. After his argument with Konstantin, it isn't safe for him to stay. Although his gun is the murder weapon, we all know the killer is not Herbert, but Frederick. Herbert later is be forced to return, because Elizabeth and the two girls are sent to the camp in Dachau. Elizabeth dies in the camp, but in exchange for the girls, Herbert must give himself up. After Joachim's death, Martin, as the sole heir, under his mother's influence, appoints Frederick to be the company's president. Later, Konstantin holds proofs that Martin has molested little girls and uses him for his favour, but Sophie finds out that Konstantin has power on Martin. On the Operation Hummingbird (Night of the Long Knives), in which SA members are massacred, Frederick himself kills Konstantin. At this point, Martin himself has become to hate his mother and destroys her with incest. He still allows Frederick marries her, but gives the new couple poison to drink. That leaves Martin as the most powerful decision maker on the factory which makes weapons.

Visconti paid much attention to details as always, so the production design, sets, and costumes are amazing. I myself particularly like the clothes worn by Charlotte Rampling. Apart from Visconti's name, what made me want to watch this movie was the SA massacre scene, which was included in a program about the director I saw several months ago. I thought the scary scene was very well done.

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