In her cult film, The Night Porter, filmmaker Lilianna Cavanni would have us reflect upon the haunting universe of a chance meeting of Max and Lucia twelve years after the end of WW II. Max is a former Nazi camp officer (played by Dirk Bogarde) and Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) was then his sex-slave. A stylized series of mutual flashbacks conflates psychoanalytically the there-and-then and the here-and-now of their perverse relationship. Despite her identification with the aggressor in the past, which was dominated by power and sadism, terror and trauma, Lucia decides to explore further the predicament of her attachment to Max in the present. Is it PTSD? the compulsion to repeat? the return of the repressed? no exit? an existential quest and a way of liberating herself from her traumatized past? Few filmmakers have raised such disturbing questions as they thought about war and the camps as did Cavanni in her masterful film.
Alain Cohen, Ph.D. is an advanced candidate in the SDPC Adult Psychoanalytic Training Program, and Professor of Comparative Literature and Film Studies at UCSD. He has an international reputation in the field of film studies.