Comments Off on Lifespan

Dr. Linden (Eric Schneider) has been experimenting on human beings at a retirement home in an effort to unlock the secret to immortality when he hangs himself. Dr. Land (Hiram Keller) looks to continue Linden’s efforts but in the process is caught up in the scandals and intrigue of Linden’s young mistress Anna (Tina Aumont) and the mysterious pharmeaceutical magnate known as “the Swiss Man” (Klaus Kinski).

The Dutch thriller Lifespan (1976) has a lot of obvious potential primarily in the form of its unorthodox story and some interesting trappings such as rope bondage. But director Sandy Whitelaw isn’t as comfortable with narrative continuity as he is with atmospherics. There’s a definite sense for the Gothic that is conveyed in the cinematography yet it amounts to little when the film relies almost exclusively on the totally unnecessary voice over of Dr. Land to give his character interiority and to propel the film from scene to scene.

It’s as if the filmmakers didn’t believe an audience could understand what was happening in any of the scenes so they decided to add a voice over whose job would be to reiterate the scene’s subtext and re-state the text itself. The longer erotic scenes between Land and Anna are the most effective in Lifespan only because the audience is allowed to live with the moody atmosphere without the voice over interrupting.

Tina Aumont is excellent as the de facto “double agent” pitting Land and the “Swiss Man” against one another for her own personal gain. Kinski, on the other hand, is wasted in the supporting role of the “Swiss Man” where he is never really allowed to bring his own natural menace to bear. In defense of Lifespan Kinski was notoriously difficult to work with so it may have been a matter of Whitelaw’s inability to curb the actor’s temperament.

Lifespan is a seldom seen little gem even if a flawed one. If one is able to really concentrate it is possible to get caught up in the film and its world of mystery, intrigue, and eroticism. The version of the film released by Mondo Macabro is uncut and restores all of the previously banned nondage footage.