Watching The Night Porter was like having a picnic with Freud. The psychological period drama plays out a sick and twisted relationship between ex-concentration camp prisoner, Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) and her torturous Nazi officer, Max (Dirk Bogarde).
Although the story is predominantly set in 1957 Vienna, the narrative often delves into flashbacks to reveal the beginning of a sadomasochistic love affair that should never have been.
Thirteen years later (the present), Max tries to come to terms with his own inner torment caused by a life of crime, and so becomes a night porter at a fancy inner-city hotel – little does he know, the girl from his past would stumble back into his settled life. Although now married to a successful composer, Lucia turns her back on her respected husband and joins Max, as they reinitiate their warped business with each other. With a relationship doomed to fail from the word go, the couple’s existence then begins to deteriorate into a life of desperation and solitude.
A sombre underscore encourages the intensity and the excessive use of low-key lighting seems only appropriate given the delicate subject matter. With impressive performances from both leads, The Night Porter stands as a firm testament to the intricacy of human psychology.
If it was 1974, the date of The Night Porter’s original release, I could probably understand the high level of controversy which surrounds Liliana Cavani’s take on forbidden relations. But in 2012, this particular contribution to European cinema does not live up to its reputation as being for the “strong of heart”. Its ‘shock value’ is rather dampened by knowledge of contemporary shocking cinema, and so The Night Porter can rest easy.
- Interview with Director Liliana Cavani
- Interview with Writer Italo Moscati
- Interview with Actress Charlotte Rampling
(Note: Extras only available on DVD)
Out on DVD (£9.99) and Blu-Ray (£15.99) July 30th.