By Richard Winters
My Rating: 8 out of 10
4-Word Review: A strange sadomasochistic relationship.
As the title suggests this film deals with the darkness of the human mind, relationships, sex and society as a whole and has a Freaudian theme of exploring the weird sexual obsessions of those who on the outside may seem perfectly functional and ‘normal’.
The story focuses on a concentration camp survivor Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) who twelve years later, by chance, meets her former captor Maximilian (Dirk Bogarde). She is now married while he is working as a night porter at the hotel she is staying at. The twist here is that she decides to go back to him and continue the bizarre sex rituals they once had.
The film’s most interesting aspect is focusing on the long term psychological ramifications of those surviving traumatic experiences. It looks both at the victims and the captors who now must learn to ‘rationalize’ their guilty conscious and it questions whether anyone can truly function normally after surviving such severe circumstances or whether society has any ability to make someone ‘adjust’.
This is definitely complex material and director Liliana Cavani has a good grasp on it. The shot compositions are full of stark shadows with a definite emphasis on the surreal, which comes to play the most during the sadomasochistic fantasy segments.
The problem with the film lies in the fact that it doesn’t have the intended strong impact. There’s no momentum or discernible tension. The characters are complex, but not that interesting and we really don’t care particularly what happens to them.
The films strongest point is actually in its final sequence, which brings the whole thing together. Like in any great movie there’s the one shot that says it all and here it’s the final one where visually, without saying anything, it shows just how isolated these outsiders truly are. It also exposes how their personal demons have imprisoned them and how dysfunctional society is at handling them.
My Rating: 8 out of 10
Released: April 3, 1974
Runtime: 1Hour 58Minutes
Director: Liliana Cavani
Studio: AVCO Embassy Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video
Arrant nonsense and surprisingly boring.