REVERSAL OF FORTUNE, based on defence attorney Alan Dershowitz’s book, is a hypnotically eerie exploration of a dark, ambiguous event in the life of a wealthy socialite couple. Dershowitz (Ron Silver) is hired by Claus von Bulow (Jeremy Irons) to defend him against charges that he attempted to murder his wife, Sunny (Glenn Close), who lies in a coma. As Dershowitz, aided by his eager law students, scrambles for ways to puncture the veracity of the charges against von Bulow, Sunny narrates flashback scenes that offer a frosted window into both the events leading up to her coma-inducing collapse and the strangely cold and alienating world of the superrich.
Irons’s von Bulow, a brilliant Academy Award-winning characterisation, provides the creepy, complicated centre for a film in which every surface is slippery and every truth has trailing behind it a sinuous shadow of doubt. Silver energises the film with his portrayal of the tenacious, obsessive defence attorney, and Close adds a vital layer with her biting narration and her work in flashback scenes as a woman sadly drifting in a drug-addled haze through her moneyed world. Director Barbet Schroeder, who garnered Academy Award nominations for both Best Director and (with co-writer Nicholas Kazan) Best Screenplay, orchestrates with a light touch, preserving the buoyancy of a film that is deeply textured yet tight as a riddle.