25 March 2014 | 5:30 pm

Film screening: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 'Despair' (1977)

JZ Young Lecture Theatre, G29 Anatomy Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT
Open to

Nabokov's novel 'Despair' first came out in book form in Russian in 1934, while he was living in Berlin. It was to be translated into English by the author himself in 1966, after which it has been recognised by many critics as one of his finest early fictions.

Playfully appropriating the Romantic motif of the doppelgänger in order to argue with Dostoyevsky, Freud and the detective tradition, the novel is at once a complex web of intertextual reference and an alarmingly funny tale of narcissism, deception and delusion that in many ways anticipates 'Lolita'.

When Rainer Fassbinder made an adaptation, he paid a complex homage to the source by continuing the text's process of reworking and rewriting. Armed with a marvellous script by Tom Stoppard and one of the finest performances by Dirk Bogarde (who had form in acting the part of doubles, through his role in 'A Tale of Two Cities' (1958), Fassbinder's film represents at once a postmodern and a critical slant upon Nabokov's 'Despair', which inserts the narrative unsettlingly into a historical context the text elides, the rise of Nazi Germany.

This film, which is rarely shown, is a must-see for anyone interested in Fassbinder, the Russian community in twentieth-century Germany, intertextuality, or the rare hybrid beast indeed of 'auteur adaptation'. It's also very entertaining...

No need to book: just turn up.

The film will start promptly at 5.30pm.