DAMAGE (Louis Malle, 1992)

Two lethally twisted mothers—acted shrilly and theatrically and with scant humanity or insight by always worthless Miranda Richardson and once-charming Leslie Caron—plot the coordinates of intersecting domestic tragedies in Louis Malle’s ridiculous, brain-dead Damage, one of the half-dozen most grotesque movies ever made. David Hare, no less, wrote the damn thing, from the novel by Josephine Hart.

The protagonist is a British MP: Dr. Stephen Fleming, listlessly played by Jeremy Irons. Fleming is married to Ingrid, a piece of perversion who is monstrously possessive of Martyn, their journalist-son, more or less having shut out her spouse from the circle of her affections in favor of Martyn, the “one person . . . for me,” as she puts it across two s[l]ick sentences. Perhaps unconsciously influenced by his low marital status (everything in this film is below the surface), Stephen instantaneously falls in lust with enigmatic Anna (Juliette Binoche, of course), Martyn’s French fiancée. Anna, also, seems to fall in lust with him, after their eyes reasonably lock at first sight. Thus begins their sordid love affair, replete with “dark” and twisted positions. Upon discovering Pop and Anna at it in bed one afternoon, poor Martyn, mesmerized, walks backward and falls to his quasi-suicidal death over a high bannister. Stephen suddenly realizes the depth of his betrayal of his son and rushes naked downstairs, wrapping his lifeless Martyn in his belatedly loving arms. Anna slips away; Ingrid is fucking pissed when Stephen arrives home. Despite their shared complicity in the hellish outcome, Queen Ingrid isn’t one to embrace even a smidgen of responsibility. Instead, she rips off her top and confronts Stephen with this remark: “Wasn’t this enough for you?”

By now, we have also learned about the homelife of Anna’s that also dripped into Martyn’s nasty spill. Suffice it to say that Elizabeth, Anna’s dear mom, was possessive of her son, who committed suicide over his love for sister Anna—which is more or less what Martyn has now done. These crazy moms! These crazy kids!

In two parts, here is the bottom line on why this movie revulses me: (1) the clichéd British quietude that suppresses this agitated plot; (2) the fact that Sally, Martyn’s wholesomely adoring kid sister, is simply dropped once Martyn is dead. I can well understand Ingrid’s having relocated Sally for the night; but the film’s having altogether dropped her as though she is worthless confetti? For the record, Gemma Clarke gives the best performance, as Sally Fleming.

One thought on “DAMAGE (Louis Malle, 1992)

  1. It will always be the end of the film that struck the bleakest chord in
    my heart. The “hell realm” that Jeremy Irons finds himself in the
    final scene, still sticks in my memory, twenty years later, still palpable, still unbelievably unpleasant.

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