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DamageGermany/United Kingdom/France 1992
Directed by Louis Malle
Running time 111 minutes
Although one of the points of Damage is that the central character, Dr. Stephen Fleming, is a typical upper-class repressed Englishman whose staidly proper life we are witnessing unravelling under the influence of an amour fou, he is such stuffed shirt and his finely furnished top-drawer milieu so cosseted that it’s not possible to feel much for his undoing in Malle’s prosaic, although typically stylish adaptation of the best-selling novel by Josephine Hart.
Jeremy Irons plays Fleming and Juliette Binoche plays, Anna, the femme fatale, who instigates his downfall. Although both actors are evidently professionals their carnal grapplings are more autistic than erotic, it taking a good while to work out whether they have been supposedly struck by some errant coup de foudre or if there is some back-story which explains their wild couplings. Turns out it’s the former but that it should require deciphering indicates how Malle’s film misses the mark.
Whilst Irons does quite a good job as the obsessed male, Binoche on the other hand, although attractive, hardly radiates the kind of allure that sends men to their graves and what inspires her fixation with Irons' to-the-manor-born toff is far from clear (apparently in the novel this is made clear by a psychiatrist, a character who did not make it into the David Hare-scripted film). Damage, like its characters, suffers from an excess of good manners, the typical French taste for top drawer settings and expensive couture not serving to distract from the absence of real passion.