Night Train to Lisbon

Reviews Films


About an aging Swiss professor of classical languages who, after a chance encounter with a Portuguese woman, quits his job and travels to Lisbon in the hope of discovering the fate of a certain author, a doctor and poet who fought against Portuguese dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. 

From Denmark born director, Billie August comes this beautifully filmed, well presented feature. NIGHT TRAIN TO LISBON boasts scenery to please all crowds and a careful choice of colour. A philosophical film based on the book ‘Night Train to Lisbon’ by Pascal Mercier.

The film starts off with professor Raimund Gregorius (played by Jeremy Irons) walking to work on a gloomy day and he comes across a young woman in need of help. She doesn’t say a word and he takes her to his classroom where in a matter of minutes she disappears leaving only her coat, a book and train tickets behind. In a sudden epiphany of optimism, stupidity and hope he boards the train leaving everything behind.

The introduction was too quick; everything happened in such a small amount of time. There was no explanation of Raimund and his past or the type of person he is. No chance for the audience to understand the type of person he is and why he would drop everything to venture in a new city. If you haven’t read the book you would have no idea what the novel in the film that Raimund becomes obsessed with is all about and why it’s so intriguing. There were so many absurdities and unexplained happenings in the film that just made no sense and over time became uninteresting.

I was perplexed as to why this book was of so much interest to him. I’m an optimist, but when the odd chance comes around where I find myself genuinely interested in a book I doubt I would ever risk all in pursuit of a more in depth explanation. It was interesting, but so unrealistic.

Raimund seemed to have an abundance of luck when it came to meeting people he wanted to in the city. It became tiring and predictable. The relationship between the mystery woman and Raimund was present at the beginning and curiosity filled the cinema, however, the film was most definitely not focused on their relationship.

The way the history of the characters in the novel Raimund became attached to is told in an elegant way. The choice of colour in an almost film noir style works beautifully on screen. It’s easy to distinguish between present time and the historic happenings. I honestly believe the film would have been much more interesting had it been entirely about the novel in the film and the characters and events that took place. My interest was evident when that story was on screen and disappeared when it reverted back to present day.

Overall the film was made well, great use of colour and acting is solid. I felt my thoughts wondering on more than one occasion. I am giving 5 out of 10 stars.

Stacey's favourite films include: Titanic (1997), Cast Away (2000), Moulin Rouge (2001), The Notebook (2004), Kill Bill vol.1 and 2 (2003, 2004), Ruby Sparks (2012) and the list goes on.