Night Porter, The (1974)

The Night Porter (1974), directed by Liliana Cavani.

Twelve years after the end of the War, a concentration camp survivor and her nazi persecutor meet again. They resume a tormented relationship of love and hate, pain and pleasure.

She could turn him in. He could have his friends kill her; the place is full of wanted war criminals hiding in plain sight. Instead they protect each other. Once reunited they will not separate again.

The filmmaker attempts to mirror their perverse universe of dread and desire. Much full nudity and sadistic sex acts, cold and unappealing. (Well, maybe one genuinely erotic moment, when they make mostly-clothed love, more or less like normal people: the last two panes below).

It could happen. They really are in love, of a strange and tortured type. Because the story is told in flashbacks, the role reversals come so quickly that the distinctions between who is weak and who is strong are lost.

For such lurid material it's not quickly paced. I tried to watch it years ago and remember fast-forwarding the video tape. It goes on and on.

Strong casting in the leads: Dirk Bogarde has always been sexually and morally ambiguous. Charlotte Rampling has frail, haunted and exotic beauty, and is thin enough to look like a death camp prisoner.

The Criterion DVD is 4:3 letterboxed. There are Blu-ray imports but DVDCompare has some cautions. See DVDBeaver for more. (Later: Criterion Blu-ray).

The slightly different width of the thumbnails below is in the video itself.