The Night Porter
One of the few women directors working commercially in Italy, Liliana Cavani has drawn a volley of critical abuse and anger for her feature The Night Porter whose story centers around the perverse relationship between a former SS officer in a Nazi concentration camp and his former victim, a woman inmate of the camp; nevertheless feminist critic Molly Haskell praised the film for its suggestion of “the permanence and attraction of evil.”
Between 1962 and 1965 Liliana Cavani did a series of investigative pieces for Italian television on particular aspects of World War II and the growth and effects of fascism - in The Night Porter she returned to the material gathered for her television reports, expanding specifically on the sado-masochistic relationship between prisoner and imprisoned.
Andrew Sarris writing for the Village Voice noted: “I can understand not admiring nor enjoying Night Porter but I can not understand not respecting it.... Cavani's visual style is so seductive and so obsessive that one has to be willfully blind to ignore it... (her) morbid vision of a concentration camp relationship relived a dozen years later in Vienna makes no effort to achieve sanctimonious realism. Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling take us back to the age of the sleepwalkers, cut off from everything in the modern world except their own fear, desire and disgust. Cavani presumes to transfer the horror of the Holocaust from history to mythology. This is a film of passion rather than of politics, but it will undeniably offend many viewers. At the very least it is never hypocritical about its true concerns.”
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