The Night Porter

Released three decades ago, this probably wouldn’t have a hope in hell of being made today. Essentially it’s a very strange love story about the forbidden romance between Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling. The controversy arose because Bogarde is an ex-Nazi turned hotel porter, and Rampling is his former sex slave, who grew to love their BDSM games in the concentration camp. They meet again and pick up where they left off, in defiance of some fellow ex-Nazi associates of Bogarde’s who conspire to track down and murder any past victims who can testify against them.

To some extent, Liliana Cavana’s renowned/reviled film creates false expectations of bottomless decadence and kinks; the premise of the movie shocks people more than anything actually shown onscreen. It certainly doesn’t come anywhere close to realism — it devotes itself more to the sick poetry of two damaged people clinging to each other than to the mechanics of its own plot. The highlight is definitely the flashback scene where a topless Rampling sings a German tune for the pleasure of Bogarde and his Nazi cronies; I have my doubts as to whether we’re supposed to take that, and a lot else in the film, literally. Rampling, going deep into a performance of serene sexual self-annihilation, is more than enough reason to rent this.

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