Film Review | Night Train to Lisbon by Bille August

night train to lisbon dvd coverBased on the novel with the same title, Night Train to Lisbon shares the story of a professor from Bern, Switzerland who abruptly abandons his duties and rides a train to Lisbon to track down a story of times past. With a posthumously published book in hand as his guide, he tracks down old acquaintances and pieces together the story of their involvement in the resistance against the Portuguese dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. The movie opens displaying the calm life of solitude lead by the professor (Irons). On his morning walk to campus, he chances upon a girl on the verge of jumping off a bridge. After ‘rescuing’ her, she disappears leaving her coat behind with a book in the pocket. This book is the catalyst for professor’s trip to Lisbon. As past clues are connected in flashbacks, the story is as much about what happened to the characters during the resistance as about the professor’s current day life.

The film is informative and sheds light on the Portuguese resistance, a topic not generally covered in popular media. The cast and acting are solid, though the deliberately slower pace of the film sometimes makes it a bit challenging. The overall story and connections are well thought out and provide for an interesting piece, though the ending is not very concrete. Fans of Irons will enjoy his performance, but those looking for a more cultural piece will be left disappointed as the entire film is in English and reveals only limited shots of both Portugal and Switzerland. Released in the US at the end of 2013, this film should be available at a library near you. You can also view the theatrical trailer on the film’s website.


About amy de simone
Amy is an active volunteer, traveler and photographer. She is interested in art, libraries, museums and nonprofits. She holds an M.A. in Library & Information Studies and a B.A. in Italian Language & Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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