An eerie, resonant time to have recorded and viewed The Night Porter.
Always intrigued by capsule summaries, this 1974 film starring Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling on Turner Classic Movies crossed various interests; those of the human spirit, the human will to endure and survive horrific circumstance, human behavior and psyche, and the incomprehensible depth and scope of Nazi inhumanity and depravity during WWII:
The Night Porter, 18+, 1974, 2 hours 19 minutes
A Nazi death-camp sadomasochist and a woman
he abused meet again in 1957 Vienna
Why eerie and resonant? Because sixty-three years later, it evokes and mirrors current America, a time now of dark intrigue, dark forces and fear.
It's a long time since I've posted. We're all living within this coronavirus pandemic, each of us coping and conforming within the parameters of our lives and judgment; corporations, media and institutions, likewise.
For news buffs like me, watching aspects of America repeat themes, claims and events of 1930s Germany has been painful. Warning signs were visible in 2016. There was minimal media coverage then, often dismissed as distortion and/or hyperbole. I told the story of an excellent 1988 movie, Betrayed, which depicted and warned of right wing militias and white supremacy in the American heartland then. It's here https://moviereviewsbydonna.blogspot.com/2016/12/betrayed.html
America now appears close to authoritarian governance, not in the regimented, highly disciplined, eventual Third Reich style, but in form and substance. Levers of power are controlled by principals, by officers in the White House, and the nation which rejected monarchy has installed a de facto monarch, a mad king, with the almost-unlimited power vested in the American presidency.
The Night Porter presages, juxtaposes for me what may come after the next presidential election of November 3, 2020. Many Americans appear uninformed of history beyond their own, and either don't recognize patterns or dismiss them when introduced by historians, even their own fellow citizens. Insularity has always been characteristic of America, and current President Trump has exploited it with his siren call of "America First"
The Night Porter in the film is a former SS Nazi, still a true-believer, making an anonymous post-war living as a hotel night clerk in Vienna. He's one of a select, small, secret cohort of former Nazis who seek to dispel and assuage any residual guilt from anyone within their small group by holding mock trials absolving whomever of them is featured. Additionally, they are searching out any surviving witnesses and documents which could implicate them in the Nazi regime, killing/silencing witnesses and destroying documents through institutional infiltration. As a group they remain fanatics, still collectively salute Sieg Heil!
A beautiful woman accompanies her husband as they check into the hotel where each silently recognize the other; she from her youth in a concentration camp subject to physical and sexual abuse of current hotel clerk/then Nazi officer.
Their complex re-connection develops and of her I thought, "Stockholm Syndrome," but that's simplistic and arrogant; they were reunited after years apart in which she lived comfortably, married to a symphony conductor. Is there a time limit on trauma?
Folks can Google reviews of this film or seek it out. Reviews are varied and often uncomplimentary. My interest is in its themes, in its intellectual challenges, its bewildering paradoxes, as complex and disparate as human behavior, thought and emotion.
It touches upon what humans are prepared to do to survive, the indelible effect it may have on them, on how far humans are prepared to depart from what most of us consider civilized behaviour, and how little or much humans may change over years, circumstance and environment. The film is not graphic in its depictions nor does it sanitize. I have a very low threshold for violence and cruelty. One's mind and knowledge supplement.
In America where the brutal effects and human catastrophe of fascist rule are disappearing as the few who witnessed it pass away - and it appears to have not been a part of Americans' education - I wonder what the next several months in America will bring. Too many seem to have only recently awakened, become aware of powerful authoritarian forces within and what it could mean for them. They missed, ignored, or were indifferent to top level government officials ignoring subpoenas while citizens in other countries watched aghast, horrified, as it became another in cumulative violations.
Post election, will there be secret cabals of those currently spewing horrific anti-democratic rhetoric and lies, plotting for routes to power once again? Will overt appeals to hate, to authoritarian supremacy continue, since a tolerance and embrace is proven to exist and speech is constitutionally protected? Will democratic safeguards be enacted to prevent current abuse or will a subsequent government simply repeal them and revert?
The world watches America as never before.