The Night Porter

Bomb Rating: 

I understand that Italian director Liliana Cavani's 1974 film is about more than the renewed relationship between a woman, Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) and her former SS officer captor, Max (Dirk Bogarde). Twelve or so years after she was his prisoner, Lucia meets Max in a hotel, and their relationship continues, much to the demise of them both.

The fact that Lucia renews her relationship with this man is the central point of the film -- that victimization itself is a drug, I suppose. Combine it with sex and it can be overpowering in certain situations. But still. There's a distinct element of flagellation here that's entirely unsympathetic. In other words, who the hell cares? If Lucia wants to go back to Max, that's entirely her choice, but if it's not against the law to be an idiot, why do I have to watch a whole film about it?

I suspect Liliana Cavani spent one too many days posing at her local café, sucked down one too many espressos and read her favorite Sartre book one too many times. Okay, you are what you do, but that doesn't mean Lucia can't impale that Nazi bastard Max with the leg of an end table and become one kick-ass babe. Then she could at least find another man to treat her badly who wasn't being threatened by the rest of the living SS.

This film is so typically European it's pathetic. Life is pain. Oh, that's so original. Lucia and Max are prisoners of their past, fated to repeat mistakes until the very end. Okay, I suppose when your country's historical past includes an Army with all the capabilities of a Girl Scout troop and a civilization that peaked 2,000 years ago, fate does seem remarkably powerful.

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