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Thirteen years after WWII a concentration camp survivor (Rampling) and her tormentor, currently the night porter at a Vienna hotel, meet again and fall back into their sado-masochistic relationship. Written by
Ed Sutton <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Way back in the mists of time, in the early 1970's, there were some directors (both male and female) who made sincere efforts to make films that dealt with themes of fringe-sexuality and dark nihilism, but create them with seriousness, mood, and poignancy: in other words, they tried to raise the fringes up to the level of High Art.
Along with films like "Last Tango in Paris", "The Night Porter" is a story about a very implausible encounter between 2 people who willingly descend into self-destructive behavior and death. The story involves a female Holocaust-survivor who accidentally reunites with a man who used to be a Nazi guard at her concentration-camp, and who had sexually tormented her. But we're to believe that she actually loved this man, and fondly remembers his sexual exploitation of her in the camp, portrayed through many flashbacks.
The very idea of this occurring in real life defies belief, but perhaps that's not the point. I assume the director, who is a woman, wants the viewer to accept the scenario as-is and then ponder the many gray areas of sexual morality and emotional bondage between men and women, and then question the "dark side of the soul" and where it leads us if we explore its power too deeply. I assume the film's nihilistic ending is the director's answer to these questions.
The film's pace is very ponderous and pensive, with long periods of silence and wordless flashbacks to the Holocaust. The film is very moody, includes some very pretty Classical music scores, and the camera frames scenes with may creative angles and reflections.
Charlotte Rampling is really quite good in her role as the Holocaust survivor. Most people remember her topless dance in one of her flashbacks, where she dances seductively for several Nazi officers, but it's actually quite tastefully done, filmed as an odd analogy of the New Testament story of Salome's Last Dance. It's probably one her best roles, despite the unbelievable context.
This film is very much part of that genre of early 1970's films known today as "Cinema of Alienation". The early 70's was a time of some pretty serious artistic Angst, which is a mindset that can sometimes produce very powerful art. The film's ending would never get past Hollywood today, since American audiences are supposed to walk out of theaters feeling happy and secure, not disturbed.
I recommend the film. It will linger in your mind for quite a while. But it's not a date-movie, so choose your co-viewers wisely. Remember, this is High Art... ;-)
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