Luchino Visconti pulls out all stops to detail the progress of Nazism in the 1930s as seen via one upperclass family. This has got to be the most violent family since the Borgias. Screaming, yelling, scheming, and conniving over factory ownership is but part of it: they murder each other with no hesitation to achieve their ends, they have perverse sexual hang-ups, they are dope-fiends, and, in film’s most spectacular sequence, a mother amongst them sleeps with her son.
Although obviously based on the Krupp family of steel magnates, the family in The Damned could never really exist in quite this way, and it seems clear that Visconti knows that it serves as a microcosm of Germany in the 1930s, a symbol of a country that began a world war.
The acting is so much in an older tradition that it becomes very hard to judge, but Helmut Berger’s progress from meek son to matricidal Nazi is clearly a superior job. Ingrid Thulin is able to handle the violent emotions required for her role as Berger’s mother, although Dirk Bogarde is sometimes uncomfortable as her lover.
1969: Nominations: Best Original Story & Screenplay