Moviedrome Introduction to Louis Malle’s Damage


Note: If I ever hosted BBC’s Moviedrome I’d introduce this film

Damage concerns the deep obsession of a woman by Dr. Stephen Fleming. He lives happily with his wife and daughter in London until one day he meets his son’s girlfriend Anna Barton played by Juliette Binoche. They have what the French call a ‘thunderbolt’ they’ve been struck. The film is based on Irish author Josephine Hart’s novel and is told in the first person. In the book Stephen talks about photographs of people taken days before they died, he looks deep into their faces to see if they knew what their fate was. The film has us looking into Stephen and Anna’s faces for they know and we cannot look away. “Who are you?” Stephen asks her, he is really asking himself. Director Louis Malle uses pale and starch light for the love scenes, which are empty and full of life at the same time.

Screenwriter David Hare changed the age of Stephen’s daughter Sally from a young woman to a teenage girl. Her innocence is tarnished by the events. Miranda Richardson as Stephen’s wife Ingrid is suspicious of Anna, they have no scenes alone together. Stephen is in every scene, he and everyone are made feel the pain as the film explodes. It’s like a shattered mirror in which the poet of frustrated sexuality Jeremy Irons, goes beyond himself, every inch of the film, driven by as Anna tells him “something he already has”. Anna will always be there for him, Binoche plays the character like so subtly, look at her close-ups, her short hair is almost too prim. You may have met someone like her. Zbigniew Preisner’s incredible score is once operatic and then like something half remembered with its use of guitar. In the most important scene of all of Irons’ films Stephen and Anna go to a park in the rain. He says “I thought I could control life, but it’s not like that, there are things you can’t control”.

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