As previously mentioned I watched 27 films in the 8 days I attended the Berlin Film Festival. They aren’t all going to make it to the cinemas, but this time one does. Unfortunately it is one of those films that I didn’t feel was particularly interesting. But I never finished Pascal Mercier’s novel Night Train to Lisbon either…
In rainy Bern teacher Raimund Gregorius (Jeremy Irons) pulls a suicidal woman off a bridge and finds a train ticket to Lisbon as well as a little book in the red coat, she leaves behind. The words in the book fascinate him and he jumps on the train to Lisbon with nothing more than the woman’s coat and book. Reaching Lisbon Raimund begins researching the story behind the fascinating thoughts in the book and the author Amadeu Inácio de Almeida Prado’s life. Slowly he wins the trust of Prado’s friends and family (numerous stars were cast: Melanie Laurent, Bruno Ganz, August Diehl, Martina Gedeck) and uncovers a mysterious story that had been long repressed.
The film is based on Pascal Mercier’s bestselling novel with the same title, which sat next to my bed for about two years a while back, before I had to admit I was never going to finish it. The book has been translated into 32 languages and was sold 2 Million times in Germany alone, but it just didn’t get to me.
Now I thought maybe the film will do for a substitute, but that’s most certainly not the case. Mercier’s novel strongly focuses on the thought within the little book and Raimund’s reception of those. They hit a spot for the unhappy teacher, making him leave everything and spending weeks in Lisbon thinking not only about the Prado’s, but also about his very own life. Unfortunately a way of depicting inner monologue in films has yet to be discovered and so all this gets lost. Watching the film it never becomes clear why Raimund is so very keen on Amadeu Inácio de Almeida Prado. It comes down to an old man discovering a long past story of a young man’s life in the days of the portugese regime and revolution.
It is an interesting story and I do kind of want to try to read the book now, but the film really is flat, boring and plainly dribbles the story instead of yelling it out. But hey if it makes me read the book at least it succeeded at something.
Night Train to Lisbon (D: Bille August, CH/PT 2012)