Review: ‘Night Train to Lisbon’

Jeremy Irons in "Night Train to

Though not quite a train wreck (the tech package is pedestrian rather than bad), Bille August's "Night Train to Lisbon" feels like a relic of the good ol' Europudding days.

Though not quite a train wreck (the tech package is pedestrian rather than bad), Bille August’s “Night Train to Lisbon” feels like a relic of the good ol’ Europudding days. Oscillating between unimaginative and tedious, with far too many actors phoning it in, this German-Swiss-produced, English-language adaptation of Helvetian philosopher-author Pascal Mercier’s bestseller, about a dreary Bern professor investigating a love triangle in Salazar-era Portugal, at times feels like a filmed conference call. Small-change Euro theatrical releases will precede a high-speed connection to the discount bins.

A professor of Swiss and (incongruously) Anglophone classics, Raimund Gregorius (Jeremy Irons), who confesses even he thinks he’s boring, prevents a woman (Sarah Spale-Buehlmann) from jumping off a bridge. A book in her pocket leads to the Lisbon home of Adriana (Charlotte Rampling), who’s Ken-doll-handsome brother, novelist-doctor Amadeu (Jack Huston, in flashbacks), was involved in undermining Salazar’s regime with his best friend (August Diehl), until a smart beauty (Melanie Laurent) came between them. Waffly rather than talky and entirely devoid of tension, the pic makes the Portuguese Resistance look about as dangerous as eating a pastel de nata.

Night Train to Lisbon



A Concorde Filmverleih (in Germany)/Frenetic Films (in Switzerland) release of a Studio Hamburg Filmproduktion, C-Films presentation and production, in association with Cinemate, C-Films Deutschland, TMG Tele Muenchen Group, SRF, Teleclub, with the participation of ZDF, K5 Film. (International sales: K5 Media Group, Munich.) Produced by Guenther Russ, Kerstin Ramcke, Peter Reichenbach. Executive producers, Oliver Simon, Daniel Baur, Eric Fischer, Kevin Frakes. Co-producers, Benjamin Seikel, Ana Costa, Paulo Trancoso, Herbert Kloiber. Directed by Bille August. Screenplay, Gregg Latter, Ulrich Herrman, based on the novel by Pascal Mercier.


Camera (color), Filip Zumbrunn; editor, Hansjoerg Weissbrich; music, Annette Focks; production designer, Augusto Mayer; costume designer, Monika Jacobs; sound (Dolby Digital), Rainer Heesch; associate producers, Michael Lehmann, Michael Steiger; casting, Jeremy Zimmermann. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (noncompeting), Feb. 12, 2013. Running time: 111 MIN.


Jeremy Irons, Melanie Laurent, Jack Huston, Martina Gedeck, Tom Courtenay, August Diehl, Bruno Ganz, Lena Olin, Christopher Lee, Charlotte Rampling, Beatriz Batarda, Burghart Klaussner, Adriano Luz, Sarah Spale-Buehlmann. (English dialogue)

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  1. I enjoyed it, having read a loved the book first, and that rarely happens. To my taste too much film is fed up at a pace that does not give you time to absorb and think; whereas this does. In following the film you like the principal protagonist enter a world of a quite horrific period of modern history that few know about. But the story does not concentrate on the horrific events but the lasting impact of the lives of those involved. To me Night Train to Lisbon it is a journey worth taking.

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