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The Night Porter (The Criterion Collection)

3.9 out of 5 stars 140 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

In Liliana Cavani's scintillating drama, a concentration camp survivor (Charlotte Rampling) discovers her ex-torturer/lover (Dirk Bogarde) working as a night porter at a hotel in postwar Vienna. When the couple attempt to re-create their sadomasochistic relationship, his former SS comrades begin to stalk them. Operatic and disturbing, The Night Porter deftly examines the cruelty and decadence of Nazi culture.

For those who like their love stories dipped in decadence, Liliana Cavani's dark and disturbing 1974 drama--about a concentration camp survivor who fatefully comes face to face with her ex-Nazi captor and lover--has held up quite well over the years despite its sensationalistic tone. It helps that the mysterious, cobra-eyed Charlotte Rampling plays the survivor, Lucia, and that the unctuous and languid British actor, Dirk Bogarde, is former SS officer Max, a now-benign night porter at the Vienna hotel where the pair coincidentally collides. There is a haunted hollowness to these characters that resigns them to relive the sordid past that tragically binds them. Criterion's DVD offers the film in its best available condition, and the color has been restored to enhance its symbolic significance. The Night Porter uses landscape as character, and its desaturated tones evoke memory of the Holocaust and a shady 1950s Vienna plagued by post-World War II guilt. In fact, this is a film full of shadows and shame, and Max and Lucia are victims of this frightening world in which nothing can be trusted and around every corner lurk spies in their house of forbidden love. --Paula Nechak

Special Features

  • New widescreen digital transfer

Product Details

  • Actors: Charlotte Rampling, Dirk Bogarde, Philippe Leroy, Gabriele Ferzetti
  • Directors: Liliana Cavani
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Letterboxed, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: March 28, 2000
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 0780022823
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,647 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Night Porter (The Criterion Collection)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on January 25, 2004
Format: DVD
"The Night Porter" must have been one of those films that shocked people when it first came out. Directed by Liliana Cavani and sporting a garish cover on the Criterion Collection DVD (yes, the cover image does come from a scene in the movie, but not in the way you would think), "The Night Porter" deals with extremely unpleasant psychological situations stemming from the holocaust. The film is definitely not for everyone, but those capable of keeping an open mind may find much to like about this generally repulsive piece of art house cinema. You have to hand it to Criterion for continuing to release pristine transfers of films considered anathema to mainstream audiences. My experiences with this DVD company have introduced me to such wondrous delights as "Blood for Dracula," "Man Bites Dog," "Peeping Tom," "Hearts and Minds," and several other challenging titles. My only gripe with Criterion concerns the cost of their DVDs, which often seem quite high even for such great movies.
"The Night Porter" is about a night porter working in a fancy hotel in Vienna, Austria twelve years after the end of World War II. If the movie merely touched on the surface aspects involving night portering, it would be a dull affair indeed. How to make a film delving into the multifaceted fascinations of checking in luggage, or taking phone calls from irate customers? No, "The Night Porter" has little to do with the hotel industry and much to do with a hideous relationship between two tortured souls. The night porter at this particular hotel, Max Aldorfer (Dirk Bogarde), was once an SS officer assigned to a concentration camp where he tortured and killed inmates.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Jeffrey Leach has written an extraordinarily insightful review of "The Night Porter," and I just want to add a few lines, as otherwise I'd just be repeating him. I recommend that anyone trying to understand this film read his review for help with the extremely difficult territory it explores.

For those who find the film to be exploitive or perverse (in an unrealistic way), please remember that we now know, as a result of so much information gathered regarding the sexuality of children who were abused during their formative years, that if a girl, young and inexperienced as Rampling's Lucia was when she was in the concentration camp, finds the right combination of emotional tenderness (as in Max's kissing of her wounded arm) and sexual stimulation/initiation, these experiences become so deeply imprinted as to be easily re-awakened in adulthood. After the intensity of such experiences, "normal" sexuality can seem dead and flat, not at all a match for the earlier times of dis-inhibtion. While this may be difficult and even offensive for those who have no similar touchstone of experience, psychologically it is accurate--frighteningly so--and "The Night Porter" shows us just how far it can go. When Lucia puts on the little girl's dress she's purchased, the image is jarring but sums up the truth of her stunted psychological and sexual development. We end up wondering whether she ever had a passionate moment with her oh-so-normal husband. With the experiences of the camp having been the most intense and indelible of her life, how could she not seek to re-create them?
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Format: VHS Tape
Despite the misleading cover photo, this is not another stab at exploitive and kitschy WW2 sick humor a la "Ilsa:She-Wolf of the SS", but a far more ambitious and artful work of cinema. Disturbing and repulsive, yet quite compelling, "The Night Porter" brilliantly uses a depiction of sado-masochism and pycho-sexual politics as an effective allusion to the horror of Hitler's Germany. Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling are both broodingly decadent as a former SS officer and concentration camp survivor, respectively, who end up in a twisted, doomed relationship years after the war. You would have to search high and low to find two braver performances than Bogarde and Rampling give in this complex story (Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunter in "The Piano" comes the closest). Like the film "Seven Beauties", the "sex" you think you're watching is really a subliminal lesson on the ugly politics of facism and oppression. Obviously, this is not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but recommended for any cinema buff up for a challenge.
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Format: DVD
One of the great cult films of the early 70's, The Night Porter can be viewed as a treatise on the decadence of the Nazi regime or an exploration of the lingering ties between abuser and abused. Gruesome and surreal in some scenes, passionate and haunting in others, it is definitely one you will never forget. The cabaret scene and the final image of the two doomed companions walking along still haunts me today. If you are looking for a great cult movie or just something different, well now you've found it!
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