Despite a witty, albeit theatrical, script by Tom Stoppard, prolific German director Rainer Werner Fassbinder does not quite bring off the spirited linguistic innovations, wit and penetrating insights of Vladimir Nabokov’s novel; but it is a good try. This tale of an exiled Russian in Germany in the late 1920s, who is driven to a weird murder, emerges over-long.
Dirk Bogarde, using a generally satisfactory Russo accent, has a pulpy, dim-witted, sensual wife, played in campy period style by Andrea Ferreol. He runs a chocolate factory that is going on the rocks as the the Depression hits the world.
He has strange delusions of seeing another replica of himself watching his carryings-on with his wife or even imagining himself dressed as a budding Nazi going in for macho sadistic sexual actions.
He insures himself and then, on a business trip, meets a down-and-out whom, he thinks, looks just like him. He decides to use this man in a trumped-up action that may be a holdup but is aimed at killing the man, passing him off as himself and collecting his insurance.