Okay, “Night Train to Lisbon” (2013) may not be the best film ever, but it is far from the worst. Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling and the rest of the cast do a fine job, and the scenes of Lisbon are very appealing (especially, as we are now considering a trip to Portugal next year). The story line is a bit far fetched, and filled with too many coincidences, but intriguing.
The basis of the film is a novel by Swiss author Pascal Marcier, published in 2004 and translated into English in 2008. I hadn’t heard of the book, but apparently it sold well internationally.
The story takes place both at the current time, and in 1973, the last year of the Portuguese dictatorship, when revolutionary movements were active but underground and very dangerous for sympathizers. Jeremy Irons plays a divorced English teacher living in Switzerland. He finds a short, and rare, book of writings from the 1970s by a young Portuguese doctor and member of the revolutionary underground in Lisbon. He is intrigued (of course there is a woman involved and he seems to be intrigued about her too, but she never becomes a major character in the story) and decides to learn more about the man who wrote the book. He catches, at short notice, a night train to Lisbon.
He discovers that the author had died in 1973 (apparently of natural causes), but that his sister and three of his co-revolutionaries (two men and one woman) who are important to the story are still alive, the men living in Lisbon and the woman in Spain, in Salamanca.
The film moves back and forth from scenes in which Jeremy Irons is searching out the past, to scenes taking place in the past. As someone tells their story, their story comes alive in lengthy flashbacks.
It provides a good history lesson (through fiction of course, with no real historical characters and to my knowledge no description of actual events) of the atmosphere in Lisbon at a period of time that not many of know about, and even fewer think about.