About an aging Swiss professor of classical languages who, after a chance encounter with a Portuguese woman, quits his job and travels to Lisbon in the hope of discovering the fate of a certain author, a doctor and poet who fought against Portuguese dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.Written by
When Raimund is on the Bern Train Station, he is thinking whether he goes on board or not. The train starts to move and the doors are still open, which nowadays it would be impossible in trains of that dimension for security reasons. Although the error was needed to give more tension to the scene, it is still a thing that would never occur nowadays. See more »
Layered and quietly moving look at the end of the dictatorship in Portugal 40 years ago
Night Train to Lisbon (2013)
A remarkable movie, with shades of magic and threads of a true national angst still resolving in contemporary Portugal. I just returned from a visit there and can sense some vestige of another era in the buildings, but not in the people. The era of dictatorship is no longer visible to the tourist.
But that is the meat of the movie, set after Salazar's long reign, and with the aftermath of memories and lost ones still mourned. But it's all told (based on a novel by a Swiss writer) as if in a dream, or in an individual's search through imprecise information and people who don't always talk about it the way you might expect. It's a series of small surprises, elegantly wrought.
So in all these ways it's a powerful movie. It's small and intimate, however, not an epic about this great turning point in Portuguese history. In a way it's appropriate, because I found the people there less exuberant and more contemplative than the Spaniards next door. There are always a million reasons for such things—climate, outside cultural influences, etc.—but it's so true that the movie is actually terribly honest. It reveals the truth, in little facets, and never complete.
The star certainly is Jeremy Irons, who plays the leading role with tenderness and quiet certitude. He's terrific, and perfect for this part. Also appearing is Charlotte Rampling who has a knack for small, odd, but critical roles in offbeat movies. The cast is wide, and in the many flashbacks the characters gradually intersect in different ways, revealing their personal connections to the political strife of the times.
Good stuff? Excellent stuff! I liked it more than I expected to. It's slow at times, and maybe (if you are not paying attention) a hair confusing, but give it a go if you are inclined at all. A serious, brooding but not depressing drama about, in the end, relationship. As all the best movies are.
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