Night Train to Lisbon
Sporadically successful melodrama from Bille August starring Jeremy Irons
The once lauded director Bille August has been a sporadic presence of late; the director of Oscar-winner Pelle the Conqueror has kept a low profile since the failure of his 90s English-language literary adaptations The House of the Spirits and Smilla's Feeling for Snow. From the tedious title to some strange casting choices and accents, Night Train to Lisbon threatens to exemplify all the weaknesses of the ‘Europudding’ picture, but patient audiences will be rewarded by some minor virtues.
Jeremy Irons affects a Swiss accent as Raimund Gregorius, a lonely lecturer who travels to Lisbon to track down a teenage girl he persuaded not to jump from a bridge. His only clue to her identity is a mislaid book written by Amadeu (Jack Huston), a doctor who took the side of the resistance against a Portuguese dictator. Amadeu's spontaneous affair with Estefania (Mélanie Laurent), which damaged her relationship with the possessive Jorge (August Diehl), still reverberates between the various aging characters Raimund interviews, with Lena Olin, Christopher Lee, Charlotte Rampling and Bruno Ganz all offering neat supporting work.
Based on a book by Pascal Mercier, August's film is supposedly about adventure, but Raimund's own voyage of self-discovery never gets much more exciting than a stammering dinner proposition to Mariana (Martina Gedeck), a kindly optician who assists his quest. Irons gives a deliberately unglamorous performance as a man who admits he’s 'boring', and the contrast with more dynamic figures from the past is handled with some skill by August, with Huston, Laurent and Diehl all striking sparks in rather more romantic roles. While deeply unfashionable, Night Train to Lisbon’s old-school, historically aware melodrama seduces during some compelling stretches, and reasserts August as a filmmaker of real ability.
Selected release from Fri 24 Oct.