|Night Train to Lisbon: the movie (2013)
|Night Train to Lisbon
by Pascal Mercier (2004)
I started reading the novel Night Train to Lisbon, but I found it way too dense and full of excessive and very long descriptions and philosophizing. When I discovered that the book had been made into a movie by director Bille August, starring Jeremy Irons, I decided that instead of continuing to read, I'd just watch the movie. Good call! The movie was actually pretty fast paced and full of dramatic moments.
Raimund Gregorius (played by Jeremy Irons) is a high-school teacher in Bern, Switzerland. One rainy day on his way to teach, in the first scene of the movie, he sees a young woman standing on the edge of a bridge railing. He drops his briefcase and students' papers fly onto the wet pavement; he grabs her to prevent her from jumping. It's a suspenseful scene, in contrast to the same beginning in the novel, which includes many details that don't really contribute to an exciting start to the story.
As the movie continues, the young woman comes to class with him, but runs away within a few moments. He takes her red leather coat and tries to follow -- abandoning his students who are starting a tedious translation from Latin. The novel goes on and on about how he's a classics professor and what his life has been like -- the movie literally cuts to the chase as he follows her. Then he loses her and looks in her coat pocket where he finds a book by a mysterious Portuguese writer and a train ticket. He uses the ticket and the next scene is in the exotic streets of the city -- the novel has way too much detail about his train trip before we get there.
The critics were mixed about the novel, but they were really negative about the movie. So don't listen to me -- it's probably a horrible movie and I just don't see it that way. To quote the first sentence of the review in the New York Times:
"Early in 'Night Train to Lisbon,' Raimund Gregorius ..., a stuffy academic, remarks that his wife left him because she found him boring. Oh how right she was!"
Or the start of the review titled "Night Train to Nowhere: Bille August’s Latest Is a Snoozer" in The Independent:
It never ceases to amaze me how many people manage to waste money producing movies so bland, empty and pretentious that nobody will ever see them. Don’t they read the scripts before they sign the checks? We’ve had several this year. Now here’s another. Night Train to Lisbon sounds enticing—like one of those dark flicks about Cold War spies in East Berlin with Richard Burton or William Holden. Check your enthusiasm at the door."
What's wrong with me that I didn't hate this movie?