Scene analysis from Damage (Malle, 1992)


Roger Ebert once referred to Jeremy Irons as ‘the poet of frustrated sexuality’, Damage (Malle, 1992) is at the centre of his career and the following two and half minute scene is the most important of his films. We first hear the sound of falling water, it is a wet and misty day in a London park, Anna (Juliette Binoche) approaches Stephen (Jeremy Irons) who enters the frame from the right. The camera tracks back as they walk forward, the camera moves to the left around a tree to reposition them, Stephen standing awkwardly with his hands in his pockets and Anna sits calmly on a bench. Stephen gestures with his hands before removing one from his pocket to illustrate his point of leaving his wife. This is followed by the scene’s first cut to the right side of Stephen’s body as he looks at Anna, Stephen then moves his body out of the frame, the camera then swoons towards Anna, the object of his desire, she shifts her gaze from him as he turns.

Damage church

The next cut is Stephen’s upper body as he shifts almost to the centre of the frame, his anxiety clearly evident. Anna gazes towards him again. He gestures with his two hands and head down, leaning his left shoulder on the tree as if he can barely contain what is saying, he indicates the order needed for his feelings. Stephen is constantly moving his head as he speaks, it is almost too much for him to bare. His passion for Anna has too strong a hold on him. His sadness is enigmatically played through Irons’ body, especially his eyes, he does not stop his passion and obsession for the wrong person, his son’s girlfriend. He now walks towards Anna in frustration of losing her. She tells him “You’d be gaining something you already have” Stephen’s reaction is his only close-up in this scene. Anna’s power over Stephen is evident as she gazes at him. In an earlier scene she tells him “You must never worry, I’ll always be there”, it is he who comes to her, after she initiated their affair.

Damage photo

Stephen paces back to the tree looking away from Anna, his body de-centred. She looks down, then up at him, she says “when can you see me?” Stephen gives into submission. “Thursday” His head held low. He looks directly at her, “Thursday at five o’clock.” She looks at him, she smiles and nods. Stephen is brought to the realisation over losing his family for a relationship he thinks he wants. Anna tells him in his heart he doesn’t even want it. For him to live to Anna, have breakfast and read the papers together is something he already has. His passion for Anna is brought on by the fact that is so intense, more physical than spiritual. He admits defeat to see her again and again, surely somewhere he knows it is going to explode but he cannot stop, nor can Anna when gives him a key to an apartment. “Damaged people are dangerous” she tells Stephen, “They know they can survive.”

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