Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. Italy/West Germany, 1969. Italnoleggio Cinematografico, Praesidens, Pegaso Cinematografica, Eichberg-Film. Story and Screenplay by Nicola Badalucco, Enrico Medioli, Luchino Visconti. Cinematography by Pasqualino de Santis, Armando Nannuzzi. Produced by Ever Haggiag, Alfred Levy. Music by Maurice Jarre. Production Design by Vincenzo Del Prato. Costume Design by Piero Tosi. Film Editing by Ruggero Mastroianni. Academy Awards 1969.
There’s really no easy way to encapsulate the experience of this film, it is simply one of the most curious epic dramas you will ever have the chance to see. It tells the story of a German family who are torn apart by their disparate personalities and their experiences in surviving World War II…a World War II that is filtered through the slightly diagonal imagination of director Luchino Visconti. Following the death of the head of a powerful industrial family, the story follows its members as they try to survive the Nazi regime and eventually come out on top. Helmut Berger is terrific as the cross-dressing, paedophilic, incestuous son who is, of course, the most successful of them all and the representation of Nazi power. The famous “Night of the Long Knives”, when Nazis murdered the members of the S.A., is now, thanks to Visconti, a gay orgy followed by murder. Ingrid Thulin is hilariously ghoulish as Berger’s mother, and Dirk Bogarde is strong in the lead as her husband. It’s really dark stuff, but it is so very outrageous in its storytelling that it is never less than enjoyable.