The Night Porter (1974)

The Night Porter (1974) 
Il portiere di notte
Der Nachtportier

The movie starts on a bleak day in Vienna in the 1950's. It focuses right away on the character of Max (Dirk Bogarde), who works as a night porter at a fancy hotel. We soon find out that this ungrateful job is a hideout, as he is a former nazi. And the hotel is actually a secret meeting place for gatherings of former Nazis, who are well determined to let nobody track them down. One day,a group arrives at the hotel. Among them, a beautiful woman (Charlotte Rampling). Her deep blue gaze freezes as her eyes meet the night porter's. They have recognized each other. She was kept years before,as a young girl, at a concentration camp where the night porter was operating as an SS guard. It gets soon hinted at by flashbacks that they had a close relationship, which helped her survive physically, even if she was left mentally destroyed.

The woman, Lucia, is married to an orchestra director who tours in Vienna. He is just vaguely aware of her wife's past, and as she demands him to depart immediately, he convinces her to stay "for just a few days". Lucia is in fact desperately asking for help, but her bland husband doesn't understand. As for Max, he is both afraid to be reported, and at the same time irresistibly attracted. He attends the opera performance where Lucia's husband is playing, while she is in the public. They sit there in the dark, obsessed by each other's presence while "the Magic Flute" is playing, but none of them makes a single move. That's a chilling scene.

Lucia's husband is surprised as, when they are about to leave, she demands to stay "for just a few days". It is already too late. Lucia has lived through hell, then built a new life abroad and more or less forgotten. But it seems life doesn't taste anything for her anymore, just no more suffering that's all. With Max, she experienced a horrible but passionate love affair, and in the deep of her heart, she remained addicted to that atrocious intensity. She is like a former alcoholic who has quit for years but suddenly falls back. (IMDB francois chevallier)

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