A wayward exploitation by director Liliana Cavani (Francesco d’Assisi, 1966) of the cinematic Nazi Evil cliché, which prevailed throughout the seventies horror cinema; from mad doctors/scientists to jail guards with a penchant for bondage and puerile victims willingly giving themselves to the morbid fantasies of the scriptwriter.
The nonsensical screenplay of The Night Porter pays homage to the latter and also adds to the distress of anti-porn activists by throwing in an uncomfortable-to- watch set piece.
A holocaust victim suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome finds herself helplessly drawn to the impeccable and aching charms of a former tormentor and SS officer who has given himself to the succulent comfort of a non-significant existence after having basked in the degenerating excesses, which apparently the SS life offered.
In hiding, we are shown, he has become a night porter at a hotel in post-war Vienna and prefers to live like a ‘church mouse’. After their chance meeting, both are ostensibly pulled into a dangerous game of lurid passion. A passion that is explored with more seriousness and insight in Bob Fosse’s Star 80, 1983.
While Star 80 shows us the lecherous, conflicted, and tragic demise of the American dream and destiny, The Night Porter simply wants us to swallow whole the idea of misplaced feelings and deviant sexual overplay as if it were a bonafide means to post-trauma catharsis. If it weren’t for the fervor in Cavani’s operatic exploration, Charlotte Rampling’s (Swimming Pool, 2003) off the rack and risqué performance and Dirk Bogarde’s ( Libel,1959) sullen yet decisive night porter the film would have been forgotten.
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