One of the most controversial films of all time, 1974’s The Night Porter was described by celebrated critic Roger Ebert as ‘a despicable attempt to titillate us by exploiting memories of persecution and suffering’. Portraying the sadomasochistic relationship between a former SS Officer (Dirk Bogarde) and a concentration camp victim he abused and tortured (Charlotte Rampling), the film has certainly earned its reputation as one of the most challenging and provocative films ever made.
From boutique label CultFilms comes a brand-new definitive release of the film, boasting a new 4K scan of the film with colour grading and restoration overseen by director Liliana Cavani and new exclusive interviews with Cavani and Rampling which explore the film’s controversial history and make it ripe for reassessment. While the film remains a challenging and often-harrowing acquired taste, there is no denying the extraordinary and unforgettable impact the film has on the viewer.
As a piece of art, The Night Porter is an incredibly thought-provoking vision of sexual obsession and sadomasochistic passion. The film is rightly considered a cult classic, with many celebrating director Cavani’s courage for bringing this challenging story to life. But there is certainly a school of thought that the film is far from art, and instead is simply a cruel exercise in exploitative perversion. The Night Porter is, as such, a difficult film to review – each viewer’s mileage with the content and its delivery could vary considerably, seeing it as anything from exemplary high art to soulless and offensive sleaze. Even now, almost 50 years since its release, it is difficult to know where to stand.
Those who fall into the former camp and admire the film will be delighted with CultFilms’ release, however. The new restoration is a marvel; the film certainly looks better than ever before. Purists can also take comfort in the fact Cavani was involved with this new master, thus doing justice to her intended vision of the film. The new and exclusive interviews are also lengthy and fascinating, offering valuable insight into the film and its troubled legacy from the creatives behind it.
While going into films blind is usually the best way to experience them, some research into this one is certainly encouraged before viewing for anyone of a sensitive disposition. This is a very dark film. The Night Porter will almost certainly continue to divide audiences for the rest of time, but fans of the highly controversial cult classic will be thrilled with this definitive Blu-ray release from CultFilms.
The Night Porter 4K restoration is on Blu-ray and Digital 30 November from CultFilms