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Film / Night Train to Lisbon

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"We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there."
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A 2013 film directed by Bille August and starring Jeremy Irons, based on the book of the same name.

The film follows a Swiss teacher who saves a woman's life while going to work, and then abandons his teaching career to embark on an adventure in order to find out more about the mysterious woman and the book she had with her before disappearing.


Night Train to Lisbon contains examples of:

  • The Butcher: Mendez the secret policeman was called "the Butcher of Lisbon".
  • Cessation of Existence: Discussed by Amadeu while giving his speech in the church. He feels that eternal life would in fact be worse than this, saying it would devalue present existence and could be unbearable.
  • Corrupt Church: Amadeu denounces the Catholic Church in Portugal for supporting the Salazar regime.
  • Driven to Suicide: Catarina tried to kill herself when she found out her beloved grandfather used to be a brutal secret policeman under the Salazar regime in Portugal known as "the Butcher of Lisbon". Stefania's father also killed himself to escape the pain of his illness, though it was called an accident given the stigma on suicide.
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  • Establishing Character Moment: Our first introduction to Raimund is him playing chess alone.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Mendez was a brutal secret policeman under the Salazar regime, but deeply loved by his granddaughter. She was distraught after finding out about what he did in the past.
  • Fictional Document: The writings of Amadeu de Prado, a doctor who wanted to be a writer but went into medicine inspired by his sick father.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Zigzagged. Amadeu makes no secret about his dislike for the notions of God and immortality, but he also appreciates the Bible's poetry, along with being an overall good man.
  • I Owe You My Life: Mendez let Estefania go across the border to Spain after Amadeu invokes this when the Portuguese border guards held them up.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Joao was tortured by having his hands broken to get information from him the secret police were seeking. He didn't break though.
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  • La Résistance: This movie, set partly during the dictatorship of Salazar in Portugal, features one of the most relevant groups throughout the film.
  • Maybe Ever After: It's implied at the end that Raimund and Martina may eventually get together.
  • Secret Police: They were the terror of Portugal under Porfirio Salazar, shown as ruthlessly torturing Joao for information. As resistance against the regime grows, the secret policeman who tortured him is then beaten up. Amadeu gets the brunt of the assailants' anger for treating him afterward.
  • Translation Convention: It's unclear, though most of the time the characters are apparently not speaking English, but rather Portuguese and perhaps German in Bern.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Prado had a childhood friend, Jorge/George. It was actually this friend who got Prado into the resistance, but the relationship broke over a woman they both loved and who had an excellent memory. Jorge said she had to be killed lest she get into the hands of the regime because if they got her to talk the whole network would go down with her. Prado, though he knew what was at stake, just couldn't bear sacrificing her like that ("One in exchange for a million... we can't think like that, can we?"), so he smuggled Estefania over the border to Spain where she became a professor at the university of Salamanca.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Estefania was in a relationship with Jorge but then started seeing Amadeu too.

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