The Night Porter is a 1974 period drama direct by Liliana Cavani. It stars Dirk Bogarde as a former Nazi officer and concentration camp guard, as well as Charlotte Rampling as a former concentration camp prisoner and Holocaust survivor.
Max (Bogarde) works as a porter at a hotel in Vienna. Lucia (Rampling) is married to a conductor and meets Max by chance while staying at the hotel where he is working. While in the concentration camp, Max sexually abuses Lucia on a regular basis. After meeting again they seem to rekindle the sadomasochistic relationship. For this reason, the film is highly controversial due to its sensational nature.
To me, some parts of The Night Porter were truly fascinating. Particularly the details about Max and other former Nazis going to great lengths to remain in hiding. These plot elements transcend sensational sexual exploits and provide an intriguing psychological investigation. With that being said, certain parts of the film felt more exploitative than natural to the plot.
The sound track and cinematography in the film were both excellent. It is easy to get lost in such a well shot film. That may cause some to lose consideration as to whether the film as a whole is unethical in dealing with one of histories greatest tragedies.
Aside from critiquing the overall plot and subject matter, another criticism I had was in the setting and costumes. Though the cinematography is great, it feels like a film that is taking place in the 70’s rather than the stated year of 1957.
Overall I feel this film is an important piece of culture to investigate. Moments of raw emotion and the concept of Nazis in hiding provide strong content for analysis. I would recommend this only to viewers who are willing to bring skepticism and historical context to their viewing experience.