The Night Porter, Blu-ray (1974/2014)
Actors: Dirk Bogarde, Charlotte Rampling
Director: Liliana Cavani
Studio: Luce/Janus Films/ The Criterion Collection 59 [12/9/14]
Video: 1.85:1 for 16:9 1080p HD color
Audio: English PCM mono
Extras: New interview with director; “Women of the Resistance” – 50’ 1985 Italian TV documentary of interviews with female partisans who survived the German invasion; Printed booklet with essay by scholar Gaetane Marrone & “The Cinema of Liliana Cavani.”
Length: 118 min.
Basically a love story, but not a sentimental one at all. Bogarde and Rampling are caught up in a twisted and doomed relationship years after the war, which uses S&M and psycho-sexual politics as a reference to the horrors of Nazi Germany. Rampling plays a woman, now married to a successful and “normal” conductor husband, who during the war had been a young Jewish girl in a concentration camp in which Bogard was an SS officer, and where he tortured and killed inmates. The experiences in the camp with him had been the most intense in her life, and she seeks to recreate them when she and her husband end up in a Vienna hotel where the former Nazi is now the night porter, attempting to be as invisible as a “church mouse.”
The night porter is part of a group of former Nazis (one has a monocle, just so you can be sure he’s a Nazi) who hold secret meetings to go over their backgrounds and assure themselves that all records which could condemn them are destroyed. The Bogarde character even kills one Italian member they suspect of possibly revealing them to the authorities. When the rest of the group learns of the woman, of course they are concerned she will be a witness against them and are constantly harrassing both of them.
There are flashbacks to the girl and one of the other former Nazis dancing for SS officers. Some of the scenes between the two are quite disturbing, and may engender thoughts about the ties between some victims and their abusers. The Cavani B&W documentary is also fascinating, since I didn’t realize how strong the Italian resistance to the Nazis had been. Altogether a classic, though probably not for everyone.