The Night Porter | 1974
- DIRECTOR |
- Liliana Cavani
Now the wife of a successful orchestra conductor, concentration camp survivor Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) recognises Max (Dirk Bogarde) the night porter of her hotel as a sadistic SS commandant and rekindles the bizarre sado-masochistic relationship they once had.
Bogarde was present at the liberation of Belsen concentration camp and it affected him deeply so we must assume he had faith in the project, nevertheless Liliana Cavani’s melodrama steers queasily close to exploitation. The film looks gloomily beautiful and is graced with a haunting dreamy score by Daniele Paris.
Although largely set in Vienna, the film was based at Cinecittà Studios in Rome. Concentration camp scenes utilised a condemned TB sanatorium on the via Tuscolona, and the hotel interior was also filmed in Rome.
The present-day setting of Vienna is indicated during the opening credits as Max takes one of those cinematic strolls that doesn't make a lot of sense geographically but includes past the city's most recognisable landmarks (many of which have appeared in other films of course), including Maria-Theresien-Platz in the Museum District (seen in Before Sunrise), the Hofburg Palace on Michaelerplatz (The Three Musketeers, 1993), Josefsplatz with its equestrian statue of Emperor Josef II (where Harry Lime's body is supposedly laid after the road accident in The Third Man) and the remarkable Vienna Secession Building, Friedrichstraße 12.
Max subtly makes his presence known to Lucia when she attends a performance of Mozart's The Magic Flute conducted by her husband at the Volksoper Vienna, Wahringer Strasse 78 at Währinger Gürtel (U: Währinger Strasse-Volksoper, Line U6).
The 'Hotel Zur Oper', where Max simply wants to live "as quietly as a church mouse" as his former Nazi associates work to track down anyone wartime witness who may pose a threat to their anonymity, is Linke Wienzeile 38 at Köstlergasse (U: Kettenbrückengasse, Line U4), southwest of the city. The beautiful corner building, designed by renowned Viennese architect Otto Wagner in 1898, was originally owned by the Kohn banking family but , as with many Jewish-owned properties, 'confiscated' by the Nazis in the 1930s. It was restored to the Kohns in 1947 and its gorgeous Jugendstil façade restored in 2003. It's never been a hotel, and is currently a branch of DM Drugstores.
The severe, pink apartment block in which Max lives is the municipal housing complex Karl-Marx-Hof, Boschstrasse at 12 Februar-Platz in the Heiligenstadt district, north of the city (U: Heiligenstadt, Line U4). Built in 1930 to designs by Karl Ehn (himself a follower of Otto Wagner), the entire complex is claimed to be the longest residential building in the world.
With old memories stirred up, Lucia meanders distractedly through the city, briefly stopping in at the Mozarthaus, Domgasse 5 (U: Stephansplatz, Lines U1 and U3). The house is now open as a museum.
On Kurrentgasse near the junction with Jordangasse, she wanders into an antique store and is taken by a lace-trimmed period dress.
Max has no compunction disposing of his friend Mario once he becomes a threat, and then attends the man's funeral at Simmering Crematorium, across from Zentralfriedhof – Vienna's main cemetery, last resting place of figures such as composers Beethoven, Schubert and Johann Strauss as well as being the site of Harry Lime's 'two' funerals in The Third Man.
As the ex-Nazis become aware that Max is protecting a potential witness, Klaus (Philippe Leroy) observes the hotel from across the Cafe Savoy, Linke Wienzeile 36, across the street – now a major gay venue. A monocle and leather trench-coat are always a good way for low-profile Nazis to blend into the background.
The doomed couple is finally shot on the old Floridsdorfer Brücke crossing the River Danube to the north of Vienna. The structure seen in the film has been demolished and replaced by a modern bridge.