Louis Malle loves to provok (as his 70’s works prove it: Le souffle au coeur, Lacombe Lucien), or at least, loves to broach sensitive topics. And by adapting Josephine Hart‘s novel, Damage, he tried one more time to catch our attention.
If the movie appeared to us, as harping a story we already heard of before, about a married man falling for a young girl who, oh!, happens to be his future daughter in law, Louis Malle manages to make his story more attractive through a precise cast and more complex behaviors. He didn’t pick a beautiful, perfect women, taken from a fashion magazine, but Juliette Binoche, who’s cute but not that attractive. He chooses Jeremy Irons to play the father’s role, and show through his acting, the dangerous power of a women, and the tricky part of throwing ourself into complex relationships, that could turn into a physical or mental auto-mutilation. Irons, perfectly illustrates the man driven by his sexual obsession with a women he met. We can notice the different steps of his “love” for Anna, his daughter in law, and how the affair is leading him to craziness. Because, at some point, we can no longer share, and we develop some possessive behavior towards the object of desire. And Stephen Fleming, being a political man, used to control and power, found him self naked and helpless in front of this young girl’s attractiveness.
The strong asset of Louis Malle, is how he handles his actors, and how he figures out how to sublimate them. They suggest so many and so little things at the same time, they look like they want something, yet, they don’t say it, or the contrary. They’re as complex as their relationships. And their human relations are, as the time flys, infected by one event, until the outburst. Being, in the film, Ingrid Fleming’s pain, Stephen (Jeremy Irons)’s wife, performed by the outstanding and astonishing Miranda Richardson, who can be considering as the showstopper.
The film director, is used to describe blurred and confused relations with sex. He chooses characters who will turn mad because of what they feel, and who are partly excited, partly ashamed about their “sin”. But after all, aren’t we all like this? Torn apart good and bad? Attracted about the inaccessible? We all want what we can’t have, and when it comes to sex, it gets harder to control ourselves. Sexual impulses are deadly, but for who?
Damage is a poetic and erotic painting of sexual relationships animated by the excitement and shame of a forbidden fruit. We can all identify ourselves to the characters, and hope or not for a same story.