The Night Porter
The Night Porter
(Liliana Cavani, 1974)
Reviewed by Dave Lancaster
Summary: Degraded erotic thriller 'The Night Porter' is exceptionally acted but can't break free from its cold characters' icy grasps.
Infamously passed aside by most critics at the time of release for being "Nazi chic", 'The Night Porter' is one of those few films that is still somewhat scandalous decades down the line.
The plot traces a former sadistic Nazi hiding out over a decade after world war two as a night porter at a modest hotel. Played by the ever-daring Dirk Bogarde, the character is given a wealth of emotion and repression to deal with. As if his shame and fear of being prosecuted isn't enough, things are about to get a lot worse.
One of his victims from his concentration camp days has just checked into the hotel. She's played by the also ever-daring Charlotte Rampling. Instead of being a rehash of a damsel in distress and sneering villain, 'The Night Porter' flips the switch. She gets off on being tortured and abused. And so the relationship started under war continues in peace time where society is a little different.
Still, there are shadowy Nazis lingering around the hotel helping us to remember that the war never really ended and Rampling's character proves to be the real threat.
'The Night Porter' is a fascinating idea and its tone is suitably grim, but Cavani struggles to project the passions that should burn within.
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