Obessive Love (or Lust) Gone Wrong
Sara | OK, USA | 12/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As is true with the novel, _Damage_ the film is not for everyone. If you are easily offended or prudish in any manner, skip this one. I have talked with a few people who rented the film because they were fans of Jeremy Irons but were upset by the premise of the movie. So, as I said, if you are easily offended, skip _Damage_. Stephen Fleming (Jeremy Irons) is a prominent MP with a career that continues to blossom. He is married to an attractive, blueblood wife and has two healthy children. His son, Martyn (Rupert Graves), is doing well for himself: he has met a new girlfriend and has been promoted to an important position as political writer for a newspaper. Stephen and Anna (Juliette Binoche) meet at a party or get-together of some sort and discover an instant attraction. Stephen finds out shortly thereafter that Anna is Martyn's girlfriend. Within days, a steamy, destructive sexual relationship begins between Anna and Stephen. It continues, growing increasingly passionate, obsessive and harmful. In an odd (even wacky) twist of fate, their affair is discovered. Anna flees in her usual pattern and Stephen must return to his wife, Ingrid (Miranda Richardson), to see if he can possibly salvage his marriage. Aside from the plot being centered around a man cheating on his wife with his son's girlfriend, the intense sex scenes in the film will likely turn some people off. I have seen both the R-rated and the Unrated version of the film and I cannot tell any difference between them so whichever one you choose, you are sure to see plenty of skin. After I watched the film, I read the novel by Josephine Hart and felt that I understood the characters much better. Although Stephen does inspire some feelings of repulsion from me, I do feel sympathy for him. He has lived a life of routine and boredom. As Louis Malle discusses in the "One on One" feature found on this DVD, the family life Stephen has experienced is one built on habit, not on strong emotions. When Anna comes along, something snaps. All of the emotions that Stephen has bottled up come rushing out like a floodgate that has burst. I suppose, all explanations and interpretations aside, that in the end, _Damage_ is the kind of film a person with either love or hate, understand or misapprehend. If you enjoy films about forbidden love or love gone wrong, _Damage_ is certainly for you."
JumpinJellyfish | California USA | 11/11/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
I would like to address some of the comments from other reviewers about this movie.
First of all, a lot of people seem irritated by the sex scenes. I would agree that these scenes of supposed lust are hardly titillating, but then I think that is the point. The overriding emotion seems to be more about urgency and desperation than desire. In fact, for all the intervening moments depicting heavy-lidded gazes and locked stares, the sex scenes themselves show the characters as being engaged in a sort of parallel experience rather than mutually involved. The parts where they do seem aware of each other have them performing acts that are almost more combative than communal. Perhaps that's overstating the case, but these people are not making love or even engaging in a grand passion so much as reveling in a kind of compulsive self-indulgence.
That leads me to my next point: many comments have been made about the lack of motivation for Irons' obsession with Binoche. While her involvement is slowly revealed as being a result of her twisted past and subsequent sick need to keep recreating it, his is so obvious as to be easily overlooked as just too simplistic: his obsession is all with himself. He has reached a point where a lifelong's worth of polite detachment is momentarily overcome, but it's not about her at all; it's completely about him. She is merely a catalyst, having been in the right place at the right time (or wrong, as it turns out) to start the chain reaction. Her emotional makeup makes her precisely the right candidate to spark his exploration of his own carnality. He doesn't fear hurting her--she is damaged already. Any fears of hurting his family are negligible compared to the vigor and rigor and sheer chaotic triumph of coming face-to-face with his own Id.
He pretty much spells it out at the end when he describes seeing her at the airport--"She was with Peter; she was holding a baby....She looked...just like anyone else." He can't remember what he saw in her. She wasn't remarkable enough to have caused such a cascade of destruction. That's because he wasn't responding to her so much as to something within himself. To put it somewhat graphically, whenever they got together, he was never inside *her* so much as he was going to a place deep in *himself*, and I think the photography tended to impart that, as well. While showing some of their most rapturous expressions, the camera had their nether regions almost in separate zip codes.
So why does he sit nearly trancelike before the giant portrait of the ill-fated trio? Is he reliving the hours and days, limited though they were, when he was utterly unbridled? Is he trying to make sense of what happened to him, to all of them? Is it a form of penance? Is he repining for precious things that are lost?
I think the first explanation the most likely. Although his life in Portugal appears to be a self-imposed exile, I feel he is no less disconnected now from life and other people than he ever was. He just isn't pretending any longer that it is anything different. And so he is living completely on his own terms at last without the imposition of societal expectations or relationships. He is essentially unchanged.
His wife had it wrong when she said for every person there is only one other person. For her, she says, it was her son and for Irons, it was Binoche. Then she wonders who it is for Binoche, and Irons gives her a very arrested look. We are to believe he is stunned by the realization that he isn't, and never was, the one.
Instead, he is acknowledging to himself that Binoche was only a vehicle for his self-expression. Later, he hunts her down in hopes of proving that's not true, that his son didn't die as a result of the father's supreme self-indulgence, but he finds that is exactly the case. There is no real connection between the two lovers.
Ultimately, she is left trapped in her sense of inevitability, and he is freed from the inevitable trappings of the respectable life.
How could it go any other way?
John Cobb | Austin, TX | 02/05/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I routinely go on Juliette Binoche hunts. From Andre Techine's "Rendezvous", through Phil Kaufman's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being", and Kieslowski's spectacular "Blue", there is only one way to Anthony Minghella's "The English Patient", and Chatal Ackerman's "Couch in New York" and that road goes right through Louie Malle's "Damage".I am just young enough to have missed Malle in his prime, my perspective and morality just askew enough to not fully appreciate say `Pretty Baby" or "Lacombe Lucien" even his wonderful "Atlantic City" eluded me for some time.But Damage, from the extremely short novel of Josephine Hart is a story that must be told, and Louie Malle is a superb storyteller. American movie-goers tend to shy from the psychological drama, of which this film is a superb example, as they somewhat shy away from the movies lead, Jeremy Irons.Iron's character, Fleming is a Minister in the cabinet of the British Prime Minister. He's from proper upbringing, his stance is rigid, his tone short and dismissive-he's a man holding in his gut for the entirety of his life who's getting ready to pop all his buttons in one fail swoop. His distraction for Anna (Binoche) the fiancée of his only son, has an intensity that is combustible and I would be derelict to tell any more of the tale.Not for all tastes, maybe not even for all mature tastes, but when you're in the mood for something adult, something intense, I suggest you look here."
If I was on a deserted island and had only 1 movie watch...
JumpinJellyfish | 04/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"No one does obsession better than Jeremy Irons. His face could be a billboard for pain. And passion, too. If you've ever been obsessed with someone(and who hasn't?), you must see this remarkable movie. The photographic image at the end-the only remnant of the Irons' character's former life-is unforgettable. Miranda Richardson is entirely credible as the wife and mother. If tragedy struck my own son, I'd likely act exactly the same way. Juliette Binoche is incredible. Yes these are rich, beautiful people but the story's so REAL! This is a movie to see again and again. Tell your friends, your neighbours, the clerk at the corner store. Only one movie to watch for the rest of my life? Damage. Damage. Damage. Does anyone out there feel the same way?"