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A wealthy woman is murdered in her beach house. The husband is allegedly knocked out first. He inherits all her inherited wealth. He has a female corporate lawyer, criminal prosecutor 4 years ago, represent him in court. Guilty?
Alan Dershowitz a brilliant professor of law is hired by wealthy socialite Claus von Bulow to attempt to overturn his two convictions for attempted murder of his extremely wealthy wife. Based on a true story the film concentrates not on the trial like other legal thrillers, but on the preparatory work that Dershowitz and his students put in as they attempt to disprove the prosecution's case and achieve the Reversal of Fortune of the title.Written by
Mark Thompson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Reversal of Fortune sent more chills down my spine than any horror movie. The story once more proves why real murder cases are so interesting: It is not a (supposed) criminal act or the lawsuit that fascinates but the detailed insight into human relations and behavior patterns which a investigation of the circumstances allows. Barbet Schroeder, certainly a brilliant observer, seems to share this view and created a wonderfully stylized, finely crafted, superbly cast movie around the Claus von Bülow trial.
Fotography, lighting and the set design really are of the first order. The main "stage" of the film is a big mansion in Newport, Rhode Island. I don't know how much of the movie was shot on location - in any case the place reminded me strongly of Manderly, the country home in Alfred Hitchcocks "Rebecca". Somehow Sunny von Bülow, she is seen lying in her state of eternal coma and heard recounting events and musing about them in a voice over, is the mythical Rebecca Hinrich become flesh and blood in the most gruesome way imaginable.
The home of the von Bülows has the feel of a funeral parlor. The most important room is Sunny von Bülow's private bathroom, the door of which is flanked by two porcelain busts on high pedestals, like some gate of doom. Despite the warm colors, the opulent furniture, the glossy surfaces (they seem to come out directly of an old fashioned women's magazine), it is deadly cold in the world of the von Bülows. The emotional detachment of the whole family - apparently even the children - is truly horrific. The most hilarious scene is ever expressionless Claus von Bülow joining his wife in the marital bed with a thick sweater, a scarf and a woolen cap (Sunny von Bülows insists on keeping the window open on principle even in freezing temperatures). He turns away from his wife and, as the last act before turning off the light, puts his earplugs in.
Oh, and then there is law professor Dershowitz and his team. What has he got to do with this movie? Very little, I should say. The bubbly intellectualistic crowd occasionally allow the viewers to relax a little, but their sporadic intrusions into the "circle" of the von Bulows in no way counterbalance the weight and the frigid opulence that comes to dominate Reversal of Fortune. And that's just fine with me as far as cinematic art is concerned.
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