59. The Night Porter

Years after the war, concentration camp survivor Lucia happens upon the hotel where former Nazi officer Max is now working and hiding. They are launched into memories of their prior sadomasochistic relationship, then rekindle it over themes of repression, passion, shame, and shamelessness. Liliana Cavani’s THE NIGHT PORTER refuses to meet expectation—I spent most of the film trying to understand the characters and being wrong. That’s partially due to the writing, which gives very little background to the two lovers or insight into what they’re feeling at any given moment. But it’s also the innate complexity of sexual power dynamics intersecting with historical power dynamics, and a film that’s more interested in provoking than analyzing. Weeks later, I’m still not sure I’ve formed any definite opinions on it. But the story is absorbing, the performances are electric, and the iconic half-nude-half-SS-uniform cabaret scene is worth it alone.


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