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Theatrical poster
Directed byLouis Malle
Screenplay byDavid Hare
Produced byLouis Malle
Music byZbigniew Preisner
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
  • 9 December 1992 (1992-12-09) (France)
  • 5 February 1993 (1993-02-05) (UK)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
  • English
  • French
Box office$7,532,911 (US)[1]
£1,908,050 (UK)

Damage is a 1992 British/French film directed by Louis Malle and starring Jeremy Irons, Juliette Binoche, Miranda Richardson, Rupert Graves and Ian Bannen. Based on the novel Damage by Josephine Hart, the film is about a British politician (Irons) who shares a sexual relationship with his son's girlfriend and soon to be fiancée. Miranda Richardson was nominated for an Academy Award and won a BAFTA in the category of Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the aggrieved wife of the film's main character.


Dr. Stephen Fleming (Irons), a physician by training who has entered politics and become a government minister for the environment, leads a privileged life in London with his wife Ingrid (Richardson) and young daughter Sally (Gemma Clarke). Their adult son, Martyn (Graves), a rising young journalist, lives elsewhere in London. At a diplomatic reception, Stephen meets a young woman named Anna Barton (Binoche), the daughter of a British diplomat and Elizabeth Prideaux (Leslie Caron), her four-times married French mother who "lives in Palm Springs". Anna, who works in the arts and antiques department at Sotheby's auction house, introduces herself as a close friend of Martyn's but it is apparent that Stephen and Anna are instantly attracted to each other.

A short time later Martyn brings Anna with him when he briefly drops by his parents' sumptuous home to introduce her to his family and reveals that they are romantically involved. The developing sexual tension between Stephen and Anna becomes increasingly clear at this brief meeting although Martyn and his mother seem oblivious to this.

Despite her relationship with Martyn, Anna arranges a tryst with Stephen at her small London town house. The following day, Martyn is appointed deputy political editor at his London-based national newspaper. Ingrid arranges a dinner to celebrate in London. While at dinner, Ingrid shows a distrust in Anna and asks her aggressive questions regarding her childhood. Anna mentions the loss of her brother who was a year older than her and committed suicide when he was 16. When Ingrid asks why he killed himself, Anna replies, "Love." After dinner, Martyn drops off Anna and Stephen follows them. Once he leaves, Stephen talks to Anna about how much he "wanted to touch her during dinner." They have sex on the floor and in the bed. It is in bed that Anna describes in detail the suicide of her one year older brother at age 16 after he had expressed an incestuous desire for her, saying "he wanted me all to himself and not to grow up." She also says that damaged people are dangerous and she hates a possessive relationship with anyone.

Stephen's obsession with Anna deepens further and on a whim he leaves half way through a two-day European Parliament conference in Brussels to travel by train to Paris where Anna is spending the weekend with Martyn. While Martyn sleeps in their hotel room, Stephen and Anna have public sex in broad daylight in a church's open doorway as the church bell peals in the background. Afterwards Stephen checks into a hotel across the street from Anna and Martyn's, spying on the couple through his window. By then his infatuation has reached a point where he desires to be with Anna permanently, even at the risk of destroying his relationship with his son and family. In a meeting in a London park, however, Anna dissuades Stephen from doing this, assuring him that as long as she is with Martyn he will always have access to her.

During a subsequent visit to Anna's home, Stephen finds that another man named Peter Wetzler (Peter Stormare) is already present and he tells Stephen that they are former lovers. A jealous Stephen initially assumes that Anna is cheating on him and, when Peter leaves, returns and confronts her. Anna denies being currently involved with Peter, and then recounts that she had compulsively run to Peter and slept with him as a reaction to her brother's suicide, which she had witnessed. Stephen is placated by this explanation and the couple once again have sex.

The Flemings travel to Hartley, the country estate of Ingrid's father, Edward Lloyd (Bannen), a retired but still well connected senior politician who has acted as Stephen's political mentor, to celebrate Ingrid's birthday. It is there that Martyn announces his engagement to Anna, which visibly disturbs Stephen. That night, after Stephen receives oral sex from Anna, his daughter Sally observes him leaving Anna's room. After returning to London an anxious Stephen lies to Sally about what she saw, telling her that he was merely talking to Anna to try to "bring all the parties together" about the upcoming marriage because Ingrid was upset about it. Later the Flemings have an awkward lunch with Anna's mother, Elizabeth, who is discouraging about the marriage and notices the strained behavior between Anna and Stephen. She correctly deduces that they are having an affair and, during a car ride with Stephen back to her hotel, warns him to put an end to it.

Stephen initially complies and calls Anna to end their relationship. He tries to confess his misdeeds to both Martyn and Ingrid, but shies away from doing so both times. Stephen instead succumbs to temptation and phones Anna's home but hangs up saying nothing when Martyn (who is now living there with her) answers the phone. Anna then rents a small renovated flat and mails him the keys so they can meet there. She tells Stephen that she could not marry Martyn without being with him. They go to the flat at an appointed time and begin another raucous tryst, but Martyn — having discovered about the flat by chance — finds them in bed together. Stunned, he accidentally falls backwards over a stairway railing and plunges to his death. A devastated nude Stephen clutches Martyn's body while Anna silently leaves the scene.

Stephen's affair is exposed and becomes the subject of a media frenzy, with a mob of reporters convening outside his house. Inside, an anguished Ingrid reacts to the day's events by questioning whether he had ever been in love with her and tells him that she wishes they had never met. "Everyone only has one person in life," she tells Stephen. "Mine was Martyn and yours was Anna."

Now publicly disgraced, Stephen resigns both his government position (he was to be appointed secretary of state for health with a place in the cabinet) and his seat in the House of Commons. He meets Anna's mother at a hotel and finds that Anna is staying with her but they say nothing to each other as they meet for the last time. Stephen withdraws himself from public life and, leaving his wife and daughter, retires to a rented room in an unknown town in southern Europe. In narration, he reveals that Anna now has a child with Peter. In his room he stares at a photo Martyn gave him of himself with Anna and Martyn, blown up to life size and hanging on his wall.


  • Jeremy Irons as Dr. Stephen Fleming
  • Juliette Binoche as Anna Barton
  • Miranda Richardson as Ingrid Thompson-Fleming
  • Rupert Graves as Martyn Fleming
  • Ian Bannen as Edward Lloyd
  • Peter Stormare as Peter Wetzler
  • Leslie Caron as Elizabeth Prideaux
  • Julian Fellowes as Donald Lyndsay, MP
  • Ray Gravell as Dr Fleming's chauffeur.[2]

Box office[]

The film was released on Christmas Day, 1992, and grossed $101,707 in four theatres in the opening weekend. It went on to gross $7,532,911 in the USA.[1]

Awards and nominations[]

  • BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting RoleMiranda Richardson
  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Music ScoreZbigniew Preisner
  • Nomination: César Award for Best ActressJuliette Binoche
  • Nomination: Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role — Miranda Richardson
  • Nomination: Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress — Miranda Richardson


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Box office mojo".
  2. "WalesOnline - RugbyNation - Scarlets - Ray Gravell: Man of the people". WalesOnline website. Media Wales Ltd. 4 November 2007. Retrieved 1 June 2009.

External links[]

Template:David Hare Template:Louis Malle