The Night Porter Blu-ray
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Directed by Liliana Cavani
Produced in 1973
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - European Film, American film
In her essay, 'Fascinating Fascism', Susan Sontag wrote that the attraction of Fascism was founded upon 'two seemingly opposite states: egomania and servitude'. Furthermore, such an attraction arose from 'a preoccupation with situations of control, submissive behaviour, extravagant effort and the endurance of pain.' Such preoccupations lie at the dark heart of Liliana Cavani's 1974 movie, The Night Porter.
This is a tale of point and counterpoint: on the one hand, we have Max Aldorfer (Dirk Bogarde), a man eking out his days as the eponymous night porter in a grubby hotel in Vienna; on the other hand, we have Lucia Atherton (Charlotte Rampling), the former inmate of a concentration camp. It is 1956. The second world war ended 11 years previously. But Lucia recognises Max, the former SS man, the former torturer, the former sadist and murderer. Her former lover. To the chagrin of the cadre of Nazis with whom Max surrounds himself in a bleached-out Vienna, Max and Lucia embark once more upon their ugly sadomasochistic love affair. You know from the outset that it will not end well.
Unlike more obvious exploitational fare, however (Ilse: She-Wolf of the SS or Tinto Brass' Salon Kitty spring to mind), The Night Porter rises above simple interpretation in the main as a result of Bogarde and Rampling. Bogarde ploughs a line you can trace from his performance as Aschenbach in Visconti's Death in Venice, delicately confounding audience expectations with deft, foggy, spare and illuminating explorations of sexual love. Rampling - glassy-eyed and alien like The Man Who Fell to Earth-era Bowie - is both vanquished and vanquishing (at once servitude and egomania), and her performance resounds to this day (you can see traces of it most recently in the astounding Lemming).
It's a divisive film certainly, and guaranteed to offend as many people as it thrills, but for all that it's a film that has to be seen and thought about and discussed. Like Last Tango in Paris or Damage, The Night Porter is a film that attempts to antagonise. React to this, it says. And you have no choice but to react.
Peter Wild on 14th September 2006
Author of 99 reviews
A film that remains highly controversial, The Night Porter is a potent drama that makes for challenging viewing.
Thirteen years after WWII, a concentration camp survivor (Charlotte Rampling), now the wife of an American opera conductor, recognizes a hotel porter (Dirk Bogarde) as the SS Commandant who sexually abused her as a teenager, reuniting with her former tormentor to continue their sado-masochistic relationship. Embraced by some as a daring masterpiece, derided by others for depicting 'Nazi chic', this film will continue to divide audiences for decades to come.
Publisher: Anchor Bay
Length: 112 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1 widescreen
Format: Blu-ray Colour
Released: 30th July 2012
Cat No: ABB8093
- Interviews with Liliana Cavani, Italo Moscati and Charlotte Rampling
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