The night porter (1974)

A slow, threatening, creepy, bizarre, painful, strangely acted post-war theatre of dominance and submission that is hard to assess. Almost half a century after its premiere, and some 80 years after the war, most of its seventies notoriety has worn off. Rampling’s dazed stare and bony, waif-like appearance together with Bogarde’s nervy body language and skewed sneer matches a queasy descent towards the (inevitable?) end. The weird, controversial relationship is viewed in cramped spaces and through mirrors. A multitude of flashbacks confuse past and present as well as the disturbing mix of personal, political, and perverse.

It continues downhill – from dependency and captivity to darkness, despair, and even starvation. A chilling aspect is the survivors appearing everywhere in society, be they old nazis in hiding or new and willing collaborators. Reminiscent of Polanski’s paranoia in both Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant!

So is this shlock, arthouse, or both at the same time – well, who can say for sure? Sort of an interesting companion to The Reader, anyway. Maybe in my book of Salome and the Zauberflöte.

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