|Maximilian Theo Aldorfer (Dirk Bogarde) and Lucia Atherton (Charlotte Rampling)|
I love female directors! Almost always you get something different from everything else produced by male directors. In this case, Italian director Liliana Cavani produced a poignant yet perverse look at the aftermath of WWII concentration camps on those involved, both ex-Nazi and survivor.
The film follows an ex-Nazi named Max, played by the wonderful Dirk Bogarde, who works as a night porter in a Viennese hotel circa 1957. A woman named Lucia shows up and they both immediately recognize each other. Max has other ex-Nazi friends around him who have been actively destroying implicating evidence and witnesses that can bring them to justice for their war crimes. They want to “help” Max in this regard and see Lucia as a prime target.
See back in the day Max got his kicks by getting performance out of prisoners of concentration camps or pretending to be a doctor for them. He took a special interest in his “little girl” Lucia from whom he got performance and sex (one in the same really). The other ex-Nazis were nearby so she could be very damaging to them as well. Plus wouldn’t Max want to be able to move on, secure that he is above reproach, and live the life he had earned up to and including the war, as his friends put it?
The answer is no and soon we find out that Lucia hasn’t really moved on either. As we see more of their time during the war, their inability to move on in the present draws them back into the relationship they had in the camps.
This material is reminiscent of Lina Wertmüller’s Seven Beauties and Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango In Paris. The visuals reminded me of Luchino Visconti’s The Damned. But this film is distinctly different and although it is a notch below the best, the ending is a poignant reminder that relationships can form in strange ways and color the rest of your life.
Assuming you can stomach, for example, A Clockwork Orange then I recommend this film. If the screenshots above bother you, then you should definitely skip this one.