I picked up the Damned because I wanted to familiarize myself with the work of a master that I have barely looked at. Visconti made movies along side de Sica, Fellini, Rossellini and several other Italian neo-realists. As each director went on to develop their own unique vision as auteur filmmakers, Visconti did the same. He became known as a melodramatic director that was able to shed light on the pretenses of past upper crust societies and therefore shine a light to our own. Despite me studying (for fun!… I am such a geek) this genre and these several directors, I had only seen one of Visconti’s films before this and a minor one at that. So I decided that it is now or never. I dived right into the Damned and almost immediately wanted to get back out of the cold and uninviting water that is this film.
The story of this film is convoluted and barely available. I had to glimpse at IMDb several time to know why I am sitting through these long scenes of people talking about a mysterious business. Basically it is about an aristocratic family trying to hold control of their German family business as the Third Reich comes into power and upsets society’s conventions. There are a bunch of back stabbings, a bunch of overly dramatic line readings and tons of images that don’t seem related to each other. As a true Italian, Visconti is fond of dubbing so sometimes the line readings don’t match the lip movement or the emotions shown on the face of the actor. There are no characters that you can latch on as being in any way sympathetic or even complex. The lighting of scenes is so muted and sparse that sometimes you can’t even tell what is going on in a scene. I could have ignored all of these things, if only the story was coherent. But I had no idea what was going on at any point in the film.
I had these same problems with Senso. I don’t think that I will be giving Visconti another try any time soon. If someone can explain to me why I am wrong about my ideas of these films, then please comment or message me. I want to like him. I want him to be thought of in my mind as high as Rossellini or Fellini. But he just isn’t.