“Reversal of Fortune”: The Ambiguity of Limited Available Information

(the recommended, ever-intriguing 1990 movie)

Watched this one (one of my daughter’s favorites) for about the 4th or 5th time last evening. It remains a curious, engaging movie about one of the sensational rich trials of the past century. But it also remains frustrating because of its deliberate ambiguity about a real-life crime, case, and trial that defied resolution each time Claus von Bulow was tried for supposedly murdering his wife Sunny. The first time around he was convicted; the second time proclaimed innocent of all charges.

The Information. What drives us each day as I have said here before. We search for facts and conclusions to resolve our conflicts and lives daily. Even in our reading and viewing (this movie for instance), we seek answers and form personal opinions about what really happened. This much is clear. Sunny abused drugs and had definitely tried to kill herself at least once (the aspirin overdose. Claus didn’t want to lose his ‘gravy train’ and hung onto his mistresses. Claus was mean, cold, and uncaring. Sunny was very difficult to live with and was unlovable after a certain point. The rest is open to interpretation and debate.

Glenn Close, in her coma-narration and scenes from the past, is effective in communicating her parts of the above sentence. Jeremy Irons is a little hammy in his performance (that sounds and looks like the real Klaus), but remains appropriately ambiguous in his surface behavior and actions. (For this role, irons won a Best Actor Oscar btw.) Director Barbet Schroeder’s direction is likewise effective in conveying the cold, unloving world of Sunny and Klaus. As well,, he succeeds in laying out the possible, plausible explanations offered in Alan Dershowitz’s memoir-source as to what happened at the time of Sunny’s death.

I think anyone who figures they have the answer as to whodunit, is simplifying what was and remains a very confusing case which resembles many other mysteries of Life. Only Claus would know the real truth and he either told or withheld it in the trials. He has remained mum as he turned 90 and Sunny died in 2008. The real Dershowitz still visits Claus in London and he probably never knew the final truth either, as in the last speculations offered in the movie. The viewer is given some possible explanations, but no–any viewer or reader who thinks he or she knows, can’t or doesn’t know for sure with the still limited, available information of the trials, book, and movie.

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