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Il Portiere di Notte

The Night Porter
Der Nachtportier

Italy 1974
produced by
Esa De Simone, Robert Gordon Edwards for Lotar Film, Ital-Noleggio Cinematografico
directed by Liliana Cavani
starring Dirk Bogarde, Charlotte Rampling, Philippe Leroy, Gabriele Ferzetti, Giuseppe Addobbati, Isa Miranda, Nino Bignamini, Marino Masé, Amedeo Amodio, Piero Vida, Geoffrey Copleston, Manfred Freyberger, Ugo Cardea, Hilda Gunther, Nora Ricci, Piero Mazzinghi, Kai-Siegfried Seefeld, Luigi Antonio Guerra
story by Barbara Alberti, Liliana Cavani, Amadeo Pagani, screenplay by Liliana Cavani, Italo Moscati, music by Daniele Paris

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Vienna, 1957: Max (Dirk Bogarde) is an insignificant night porter at a respectable hotel, who lives, in his own words, "like a churchmouse". Max wasn't always like that, once he was with the SS, in charge of a concentration camp, and he is in touch with former SS officers even now, who have formed a organisation to get rid of all the evidence and witnesses of their former wrongdoings, even by violent force. Max only wants this to find closure and go on with his insiginificant life, but others, like the organisation's leader Klaus (Philippe Leroy) have other plans, that include a reemergence of the SS.

Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) is the wife of a famed conductor (Marino Masé). She leads a life in luxury and visits Vienna merely because her husband is doing a guest performance at the opera. But it wasn't always like that. Once, during World War II, she has been the inmate of a concentration camp, and one of the very few who got away alive. When she runs into Max, the night porter of the hotel she and her husband are staying at, she recognizes him immediately: He is the commander of the camp she was at, indeed one of her torturers. Now the right thing to do would have been to immediately blow the whistle of course, but it's not that easy: Back in the day, Max has taken a fancy in the girl, has made her his sex slave. Sure, he has humiliated and tortured her, but he has also shown special attention to her, kept her from being killed, and just maybe, the fact that she is still alive even now is thanks to him.

Without her knowing it, Max is helping Lucia even now, like when a informer (Ugo Cardea) blows the whistle of a witness against Klaus and gang is staying at Max's hotel, he kills the informer before he can give away Lucia's name. Later, Max goes to Lucia's room to rape her, but judging from her reactions, she seems to be into it, has hoped for it to happen - a clear case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Of course, Klaus and the others have long grown wise to what's really going on, know that Max has killed the informer, guess who Lucia really is, and they want to talk him into giving her up - but Max is genuinely in love with her, refuses whatever deal they have to offer.

Lucia leaves the hotel, allegedly to reunite with her husband, who has left a few days earlier, but really to move into Max's apartment, to relive their former "romance" by playing games of master and slave, cat and mouse. However, her move hasn't gone unnoticed by Klaus and men, and ultimately, they put his apartment under siege, try to very cynically starve them out. Max and Lucia hold out an admirably long time, and find solace in each other when all seems long lost, but ultimately, they break, leave the apartment, he in SS uniform, she in something a concentration camp inmate would have worn, and just walk away as if to a better world only the two of them can see. And on a bridge over River Danube, both are shot dead by Klaus's men.


A delicious mix of serious reminiscense to come of the darkest chapters of 20th century and fetish erotica, amour fou and Stockholm Syndrome, all not done in a preachy manner but based on a very ambivalent storyline that not exactly reinterprets history but gives it an interesting spin. And if all this is graced by a subtle direction by Liliana Cavani, who quite clearly refuses to take sides, and a great cast (first and foremost of course Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling in the leads), you've got yourself one excellent film.


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD