Max (Dirk Bogarde) is a discreet, unassuming night porter working in a posh hotel in Vienna in 1957, tending to the guests' needs, from cold water to a bed-warming gigolo. Then Lucia (Charlotte Rampling) arrives at the hotel, on the arm of her husband, an American composer, and Max's past comes flooding back to him. It turns out Max was an S.S. officer at a Nazi concentration camp where Lucia was a beautiful young prisoner. She became, in effect, Max's sexual slave. Now, years later, their reunion shatters both of their lives. Lucia stays in Vienna after her husband travels on, in order to see Max, and they find themselves caught up in a renewal of their former sadomasochistic relationship. Max has an upcoming show trial for his war crimes. His former S.S. comrades have been carefully destroying documents and "filing away" witnesses to clear all their names, and, while Max tries to keep Lucia's existence a secret from them, they eventually find out about her. They consider her a threat, and they urge Max to turn her over to them. He quits his job, and he and Lucia hide out in his apartment, while his former friends keep watch. Liliana Cavani (Ripley's Game) co-wrote and directed this controversial film, Il Portiere di notte, which she reportedly based partly on her own interviews with a Holocaust survivor.
by Josh Ralske synopsis