VenueWalter Reade Theater
A film of many firsts for Fassbinder: his first English-language feature, his first film with a top-billed international star (Dirk Bogarde), his first big budget (costing more than all of his previous movies combined), and his first film in which he had no hand in the screenplay. Fortunately, the words weren’t a problem, as playwright Tom Stoppard adapted the story from Vladimir Nabokov’s novel. In a stunning characterization, Bogarde is Hermann, a Russian émigré who manages a German chocolate plant as the Nazis are rising to power. His two problems—a desperate need for money and a loosening grip on reality—lead him to concoct a life-insurance scheme involving a drifter whom he believes is his doppelgänger (though it’s clear to everyone else that he isn’t). Michael Ballhaus’s camera movements are as elaborate and exuberant as Stoppard’s words, making for one of Fassbinder’s most riveting achievements.