[Movie] Reversal Of Fortune (1990)

  • Directed by: Barbet Schroeder
  • Cast: Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons, Ron Silver
  • Based on: Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case by Alan Dershowitz (1985)

Minnie: I think this whole case stinks! I think Von Bulow stinks! He’s obviously guilty of something pretty despicable and if we free him we become his accessories, accomplices after the fact. I’m really shocked with your reputation for defending the poor and oppressed that you’ve taken this case.

from the book

Reversal Of Fortune” is a criminal court drama based on a true case. The film reconstructs the story of the coma of Sunny von Bülow. Her husband, Claus von Bülow, was convicted of two attempted murder cases and acquitted eventually. 

The legal system vs. the moral consciousness has been the common theme in the movies. Everyone seems to know or is convinced who did what, but the convicted were set free due to loopholes of the legal system or even a cartel of corrupted lawyers. The law is supposed to protect justice. But the question is, whose side of justice?

Jeremy Irons’s Oscar-winning performance, icy steeliness but compelling and captivating, is the point of watching. His enigmatic mood and chilly humor enhanced the movie more entertaining even though the theme can be trapped in a cliche.

Minnie: Yeah, ok, so someone has to defend Claus. But why you, why us? 

Alan Dershowitz: Look, you’re my student, you, you have a choice. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do; that is your choice. The reason I take cases and here unlike most other lawyers, who are not professors and therefore have to make a living: I take cases because I get pissed off, and I am pissed off here. The family hired a private prosecutor: unacceptable! They conducted a private search! Now if we let them get away with that, rich people won’t go to the cops any more. You know what they’re going to do? They’re going to get their own lawyers to collect evidence, and then they are going to choose which evidence they feel like passing on to the DA. And the next victim isn’t going to be rich, like Von Bülow but it’s going to be some poor schnook in Detroit who can’t afford, or who can’t find, a decent lawyer. I think it’s a little more complicated than your simple moral superiority, hmm?

from the book

Alan Dershowitz is a shrewd lawyer who stands on the border of the legal system and real life. He has presented many celebrity clients and was well known for two successful appeals that overturned convictions, first for Harry Reems in 1976, followed by Claus von Bülow in 1984. He also served as the appellate adviser on the O. J. Simpson murder trial. Even though it is hard to judge him through the movie, it is interesting to see why he took the Bülow case. He seems very practical and maybe cunning by arguing the system and reality over moral idealism.

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