This film The Night Clerk(2020), which is about to turn half a century old (it was released in Europe and the USA in 1973) is not only a classic recognized by the whole world, but also an analysis of the most bizarre labyrinths of the soul, in which it is easy to lose one’s mind or discover the dark side of your own “I”. The protagonist is a former SS man leading a decent life who managed to elude the court and the noose and get a position as a porter in a posh hotel.
The heroine is the young wife of a successful composer, in the past a prisoner of a Nazi concentration camp, a victim of this well-preserved handsome man. The piquancy of the situation is given both by the departure of the husband and the appearance of the surviving “colleagues” of the protagonist, who want him to “wash off” from the terrible past and become a decent citizen.
If you believe the memoirs of eyewitnesses and the works of historians, such interweaving of fates happened in real life. Executioners in black uniforms “had fun” with the girls from among the prisoners, then to send them to their deaths, and women, like many men, clung to the slightest chance of life. There were many cases when former Nazis and their voluntary assistants “fit” into civilian life and even invented heroic biographies for themselves. But here we see a classic sadomasochistic duet, when the executioner and the prisoner enjoy each other and at the same time torture each other, unable to get out of the fetters of a common past.
Some reviewers believe that modern Romeo and Juliet were embodied in the main characters, others believe that the plot of the film is a classic insane nonsense in which there is not and cannot be a glimpse of logic. And some believe that the director himself was fascinated by the charisma of the Third Reich and not so much denounced the ugliness of fascism as glorified it. Psychologists use this movie to prove their favorite theories, and reenactors recreate a luxuriously glamorous Reich that hardly existed in real life.
The director of Portier, the Italian L. Cavani, said that a real story became the basis of the plot. The frightened and confused prisoner girl and her creepy lover “really” existed, but he was killed, and she remained alive. So the continuation of the monstrous “romance” many years later is already pure fantasy. Although who knows, maybe such situations also happened? After all, real life shows us more unthinkable stories than any masterfully “twisted” novel and any puzzle movie.
I think that everything merged in this film at once: the story of the madness of dark passion, and the classic situation of love games of sadomasochists “the executioner is the victim”, and the understanding that the torment experienced distorts the soul of not only the one who causes them, but also that who tolerate them. Who hasn’t heard of faithful servants who idolize completely unbridled masters, of wives who sincerely please their sadistic husbands and endure all sorts of insults from them, of people who believe that the suffering of the innocent is completely deserved? In these examples there is no mysticism and not a drop of glamor, they are not taken from an encyclopedia of fictional stories, but from real life itself.
This film also tells how the past draws you in, forcing you to return to painful memories again and again and comb your wounds. When you endlessly savor your mistakes instead of learning from them a good lesson and move forward, when you cling to people who cause you nothing but troubles or cannot give up addictions, you act exactly like the heroine of The Night Clerk. receptionist” who can’t get rid of her sinister lover and his creepy friends. Sounds crazy and weird, but that’s the way it is.
And finally, the leaders of the Third Reich and the rank and file SS could be charming and even seem “kind”. Who hasn’t seen pictures of enthusiastic girls saluting Hitler, or boys from Berlin ready to die for the Fuhrer? Not only simple souls, but also real intellectuals who saw anything in Hitler’s Germany – from the triumph of law and order to the triumph of power and martial beauty, fell for this “bait”.
Then some of them parted with their illusions with pain and blood, while others remained faithful to them even after the defeat of Hitler and kept talking about the slandered Reich. So there are almost more versions of the interpretation of the plot of The Night Clerk than films about the follies of the Nazis. Choose any of them or create your own!