Night Train to Lisbon

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“A decisive moment of life, when its direction changes forever, are not always marked by large and shown dramatics. In truth, the dramatic moments of a life determining experience are often unbelievable, low key. When it unfolds its revolutionary effects and insures that life is revealed in a brand new light, it does that silently. And in this wonderful silence resides its special nobility.”

What it’s about:

I’m not exactly sure yet, but I have a feeling I’ll know more after I read the book. Near as I can tell from the movie, it’s about chance, existential angst, the joy of living life vicariously, and the possibility of being so moved by a book as to be transformed by it.

Raimund Gregorius, a fifty-seven year old academic played with understated aplomb by Jeremy Irons, is thrust into an adventure when he finds a small book, a vanity print memoir/philosophical treatise written by Amadeu de Prado, a doctor living in Portugal during the Salazar dictatorship. Fascinated, he embarks on a journey to meet the man and then, upon discovering he has already passed, to understand his story and imagine to the extent he his able what it must have been like to be him.

What I liked about it:

I like the idea that, however unlikely, it is yet possible that an adventure might leap out fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus and ravish an unsuspecting person, awakening that person from his or her somnambulism. There is a moment, early on in the film when a decision is thrust upon Gregorious–adventure or routine–he has seconds to decide whether to follow the rabbit down the hole or turn back. Only it isn’t so obvious as that. There are no rabbits with pocket watches, much less waist coat pockets to retrieve them from, just the sudden and unexpected impulse to keep going.

The film has an abysmal 42% critic and 59% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It deserves much higher than that. Perhaps it’s not hitting the target audience. The primary plot, largely told via flashback, follows four people heavily involved in the resistance movement against the fascists; however, those interested in the professor’s story as well as the revolutionary’s will find a hidden gem. It’s not The Bourne Identity or even Night Train to Munich, but taken on its own terms it succeeds admirably.  It’s available on Netflix.

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