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The Night Porter - Blu-ray review

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Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

LILIANA Cavani’s The Night Porter is the Italian filmmaker’s most famous work as well as her most controversial.

A provocative look at the relationship between a former Nazi SS officer, Maximilian Theo Aldorfer (played by Dirk Bogarde), and the concentration camp survivor, Lucia Atherton (Charlotte Rampling), who had an ambiguous relationship with him during her capture, and who subsequently rekindles it in post-war Europe, the film continues to divide opinion.

Some argue that it offers a challenging examination of issues such as Nazism, life in post-war Europe, Stockholm Syndrome and sexual deviance. While others insist it’s exploitative, especially in the way it uses the Holocaust as a backdrop.

This Blu-ray release won’t resolve the debate but it may widen it across a new generation of viewers.

For me, the film is as morally dubious as critical stalwarts such as Roger Ebert have suggested. As with a lot of provocative movies, the claim is that the film exists to examine serious issues in an extreme, confrontational manner.

But the suspicion lingers that Cavani was going for sensationalism, especially in the way she depicts certain scenes between Bogarde and Rampling. And while such issues should never be easy to watch, they do leave a nasty taste.

There’s also no escaping the background context upon which they’re set, which makes it hard to sympathise on any emotional level with either character no matter how committed the performances (and both Bogarde and Rampling deliver strong work).

Overall, then, it’s a film that disturbs, and not always for the right reasons, while also emerging as horribly misguided on just about everyone’s part.

Certificate: 18
Running time: 118mins
UK Blu-ray Release: July 30, 2012