• The fall and decay of a powerful, aristocratic family meets with the rise of a sweeping political movement- The Damned is definitely the work of the same artist as 1963’s The Leopard
  • However, instead of complex blocking and medium-long distanced mise-en-scene décor work, Visconti’s primary stylistic tool in The Damned is the camera zoom- much like 1971’s Death in Venice
  • The first of Visconti’s German trilogy. Death in Venice will follow in 1971 and then finally Ludwig in 1973
  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder called this the greatest film. You can see the influence in the lavish visuals, and inevitable tales of self-destruction and nihilism
  • Maurice Jarre  (Doctor Zhivago) does the score– he’s just a great fit for the sweep of the historical epic
  • Visconti’s roving zooms, he moves one by one, face to face, zooming for close-ups. A family member at the dining room table will say something shocking and Visconti rushes in via zoom to survey different responses.
  • The meeting of money (a steelwork patriarch) and fascism (represented here by bad manners and jocularity– which seems as much about class as anything else to Visconti). There’s a murder in the middle of the night of the patriarch where everyone is a suspect like Gosford Park. 
  • The Damned is loaded with a talented international cast (again- something Visconti balanced so well in The Leopard). Dirk Bogarde is very fine, as is Charlotte Rampling (so sincere) and they are British. A young, handsome Helmut Berger. And 10-time Ingmar Bergman player Ingrid Thulin is here as the Baroness Sophie Von Essenbeck. She gives the best performance in the film. She’s cold, manipulative, the scene of her nude in bed with Bogarde is sublime — her confidence and command is clear.
  • It isn’t half the feat of The Leopard– but there still is strong wallpaper décor, costume work.
  • There’s much to admire in the use of expressionistic lighting—green and red splashes in an early segment.
  • Like much of Visconti’s work- the film is extremely controversial. Pedophilia (two films in a row starting here for Visconti with Death in Venice next), suicide…more to come later
  • There’s a paper to be written on how Altman, Pakula and Visconti use the zoom. This isn’t about eavesdropping or surveillance. Though this film may be stronger overall, I think Visconti’s use of the zoom is stronger in Death in Venice with the lusting  (another Bogarde collaboration). Visconti’s zoom technique isn’t as strong as Pakula or Altman. There’s a masterpiece here if he shoots this like he shot The Leopard
  • At 85-minutes, a gorgeous frame of the green stalks from the flowers right in the front center of the frame with Thulin back left
  • From the 98-minute mark to the 107-mark the film goes to another level at the Nazi party. Drunkenness, excess, streamers in the frame- it is décor and set decoration bliss. In one scene Visconti’s camera pivots right and tracks to a running topless girl. These are moments from The Leopard– the shots linger in dialogue-less scenes. There is a palatable stench of zealotry, nationalism. There is booze, singing, as Visconti’s camera drifts along– lingers. The Nazis have smeared makeup, sweat, vacant looks. The mise-en-scene is loaded with streamers, Nazi flags, beer bottles, and a harsh red light. There’s no other way to say it there is a homosexual Nazi orgy that is broken up by a violent massacre.
  • This is a dense saga, with power plays (this is a few years before The Godfather)—repeat viewings will help—the rise of the Nazis as backdrop.
  • Vertigo-like neon greens when Helmut Berger and Thulin embrace at the 124-minute mark
  • at the 130-minute mark Berger in close-up with Thulin shot through two doors (again this was very prevalent in The Leopard creating multiple frames within the frame). There’s an entirely blue scene—he’s in a blue sweater she’s in a blue dress with blue earrings, rings, slippers and notebook. This is the incest scene—indigo. If you go back to my comment earlier this film has pedophilia, a Nazi massacre of a homosexual orgy, incest—clearly coming along in 1969 with the change in the rating systems
  • at the 143-minute mark, Berger opens the door, Thulin is there again with the red lamp at the end of the hall
  • the final party is impressive as well. There are couples staggered thoughtfully throughout the frame with good blocking at the 145-minute mark. There is giant Nazi flag in the background- a strong frame.
  • At the 150-mark, Bogarde with the maroon lampshade in the front right of the frame
  • A Must-See film- top five of the year quality