A decade after the end of the WWII, a survivor who used to have a strange affair with one of her nazi torturers stumbles upon said torturer. He works as a night porter on a hotel where she is staying with her husband, and once the husband leaves they continue where they left of. At the same time, some of his partners from back in the day are finding out about his affair.
A movie like this is hard to review because it's so imprinted into film history and the political aspects of it are hard to ignore, and that's where I come in. I'm completely uninterested in politics, and especially in films. I like to think of myself of living in a fictional world, free of politics. But the use of politics in films is a fact and always have been. When it's a movie like "The Night Porter" it's okay, though, because it's one of those stories that are so good that it can be watched in many ways. Yes, I'm too stupid and arrogant to be able to appreciate all that this film, and many other films, have to offer, but "The Night Porter" is a fantastic film.
The idea of this film alone is messed up and makes me think of another post-nazism classic, "In a Glass Cage", but slightly less depressing. "The Night Porter" is set about 12 years after the end of World War II. Through flashbacks we're presented to a relationship between a young girl prisoner and an SS soldier. Their relationship was sadistic and unhealthy, and left a mark on both of them. In the present (well..) they stumble upon each other again. The torturer is a night porter at a hotel, and the young woman is staying there with her husband. At first they're shocked from seeing each other, but slowly they start to think of ways to be able to continue their sadistic affair. Because the husband has left the hotel, that's one worry less, but the real problem is the night porter's ex-comrades who are actually trying to help the night porter, but they get a bit too nosey and stumble upon the affair.
"The Night Porter" is one of those films that don't need to be graphic to really disturb you because it has such a well-developed psychological layer. The situation is messed up as it is, and it's a hard one to melt, but it really presents itself completely once we realize how disturbed our individuals really are. They're not just lovers getting back together, but they are also torturer/victim missing their past. Not even in a Stockholm Syndrome sort of way where it's simply a victim falling for her respect of the torturer, but something much more psychologically twisted. At times it's hard to see where the lines are drawn.
There are some really fantastic scenes in the movie that truly amp up the atmosphere. I think the scene that really put the finishing touches on the entire feel of the movie was a scene with Charlotte Rampling where her character is dancing for the SS officers wearing masks. At the end of her dance number she is given a present in a box. The present is a decapitated head. Charlotte Rampling's character overall made this movie into what it was, actually. Yeah, Dirk Bogarde was great in his role as well but his character seemed a lot more restricted, while Charlotte Rampling definitely got to mess with both her character and the audience. A fascinating depiction of an insane woman.
"The Night Porter" comes highly recommended. If you find an interest in nazi / war movies with a very interesting spin to them, I think you should check this one out. It's both political and psychological, and has characters worthy of studying. It's not smutty or graphic, but still it's very disturbing and at times even erotic. It's hard to find someone to root for but that's not what the film is about - the victim isn't simply a victim and the torturer isn't simply a torturer. A very strong movie that I'm surprised I've skipped for so long, but it just goes to show that there are so many good movies left to explore.