Rainer Werner Fassbinder once said that Despair was his "most optimistic" film. Yet neither the historical period chosen as a background to the characters in his movie - Nazi Germany in the the 30s -, nor his theme - criminal schizophrenia - would lead you at first view to suppose that the movie could have a positive theme.
The director's comment nonetheless illustrates the will of his leading character - Hermann, a wealthy Russian chocolate maker exiled in Germany - to change the course of his humdrum existence. But the special fascination that he harbours for his illness, schizophrenia, drives him to commit a murder: he kills a tramp in order to take his place and assume his personality.
Made in 1978 and presented the same year in Compétition at Cannes, Despair is a film inspired by Nabokov's novel "Despair". Although the story as told by Nabokov takes place in Prague under a communist regime, the plot of Fassbinder's Despair unfolds against the rise of Nazism, reflecting the film-maker's ardent desire to communicate his vision of Germany. "I hope", explained Fassbinder, "to live long enough to make a dozen movies that will recompose Germany in the round, as I see her".
Despair will be screened at 7.30pm on Friday 13 May in the Salle du Soixantième.