8 user 14 critic

In the White City (1983)

Dans la ville blanche (original title)
A Swiss sailor jumps ship in Lisbon, tired of the noisy engine room, the ship "a floating factory of crazy people." He rents a room and does little. He writes letters to his lover, ... See full summary »


Alain Tanner


Alain Tanner
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview:
Bruno Ganz ... Paul
Teresa Madruga ... Rosa
Julia Vonderlinn Julia Vonderlinn ... Élisa / The Swiss woman
José Carvalho José Carvalho ... Le patron
Francisco Baião Francisco Baião ... Le voleur au couteau
José Wallenstein ... L'autre voleur
Victor Costa Victor Costa ... Le garçon du bar
Lídia Franco ... La fille du bar
Pedro Efe Pedro Efe ... L'ami dans la taverne
Cecília Guimarães Cecília Guimarães ... La dame du train
Joana Vicente ... La jeune fille du train
José de Carvalho José de Carvalho ... Le patron


A Swiss sailor jumps ship in Lisbon, tired of the noisy engine room, the ship "a floating factory of crazy people." He rents a room and does little. He writes letters to his lover, describing the whiteness of the city, the solitude and the silence. He sends his love and emptiness; she replies with love and confusion. He sends movies from his 8mm camera. Then he becomes friendly with Rosa, a chambermaid, and soon it's a love affair. He continues to send letters and movies home. His Swiss lover is hurt and angry; she sends an ultimatum. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

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Did You Know?


In the scene where Paul (Bruno Ganz) enters the Pub & watches a soccer game, it is a World Cup match with Italy vs. Brazil (7/5/82). Italy won the game with the final score of 3-2. Paolo Rossi scored all 3 goals for Italy. See more »

User Reviews

The impossibility to just vanish
18 April 2009 | by hasoschSee all my reviews

To drop out of society: this is one of the central topics in the films of Alain Tanner. Unfortunately, we cannot just vanish: we leave traces. We also leave commitments, partners, children, our post, the apartment. And if we get really able to reach the state of completely breaking off all outer belongings without touching our inner states, we are still far away from being free: We are neither free to do something, because in well-organized societies, my freedom-to stops exactly there where the freedom-to of my neighbor starts, and since we are crowded on this planet, there is not much to accomplish. And neither is our freedom-from so easily to achieve, because we live in a global society where only the suicide is for free.

In Tanners's "Messidor" we have Marie and Jeanne, whose freedom-to ends quickly, namely in the moment where there are out of money. In "Charles vif ou mort", Charles' freedom-from ends there, where he sees that it is not to accomplish without destroying the whole society, which is rather impossible. And in the never-land between freedom-to and freedom-from, there is Paul in "Dans la Ville Blanche", the Swiss sailor, who decides one day not go back to his ship but to stay in Lisbon until his money is gone. In a letter to his partner in Zurich, he writes: "I am not in vacation, since a vacation must be planned, and planning is work. I am doing NOTHING". All central characters of Tanner's movie want the same: to experiment how it is possible to experience the ABSENCE of something: the empty space as absence from the crowd, the empty time as the absence of obligations in society. And all of them fail sooner or later: either they cannot go on anymore, because the emptiness has turned into nonsense, or people do not let them go, because they want them put behind bars - of prisons or clinics.

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Switzerland | Portugal | UK


English | German | Portuguese | French

Release Date:

21 April 1983 (Portugal) See more »

Also Known As:

In the White City See more »

Filming Locations:

Portugal See more »


Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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