Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Reversal of Fortune (1990)

Director:Barbet Schroeder
Writers: Alan M. Dershowitz, Nicholas Kazan
Cast:     Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close, Ron Silver

Wealthy Sunny von Bulow lies brain-dead in a coma, husband Claus guilty of attempted murder; but he says he is innocent and hires Alan Dershowitz for his appeal.

The film is adapted from Alan Dershowitz's 1985 book Reversal of Fortune: Inside von Bulow Case. Unlike other trial based films, the protagonist lawyer is not really up against it in terms of insurmountable odds. The case is quite easy to break and thereby prove his client's innocence but he is in a moral quandary because he doesn't fully understand his client and is not entirely sure about his innocence.  Even the trail scene in the film is there just in passing and the whole film aims to capture the nature of relationship between Mr and Mrs. von Bulow. It is made obvious that Claus married Sunny because of her riches. Their marriage is in doldrums and he wants to get out of it through divorce whereas she wants to commit suicide. We know that Claus is also not too unhappy about it but the question is whether he tried to make sure that she is dead and voluntarily put her in this state. Even if he did, should we think he is guilty of a big crime because of the state of their marriage and general unhappiness. The good thing about the film is that the lawyer character harvest these suspicions throughout the film and never believes him completely with regards to his version of the events. So there is no big twist at the end of it which helps us to appreciate the way they build the characters. 

Jeremy Irons is superb in this film and he got an academy award to show for it. He did some great work during that time period (Dead Ringers & Kafka). He is an actor with great presence and it is a shame that his career didn't take off the way it should have in the latter part of the 90s. It is not really great when IMDB picks Lion fucking King and Die Hard: With a Vengeance as his career highlights when we check his bio. Reversal of Fortune is a solid little film that I think was held up in a much higher regard when it got released because of the familiarity with the case.

Rating: 3.5/5