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.
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)