Home Portuguese Dark moments in Night Train to Lisbon

Dark moments in Night Train to Lisbon

by Bernard O'Shea

I have caught Night Train to Lisbon. In this instance it was not a real comboio (or trem as Brazilians would call it) but the film of that title. Still, armchair travel while you’re sitting in a cinema with a big screen in front of your eyes and a glass of wine in front of your lips is a pleasant experience. Especially if it includes the sights of Lisbon.

The film had mixed reviews, even though it has big names in it such as Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Christopher Lee and acclaimed German actor Bruno Ganz, who died recently, but I enjoyed it. A dull professor from Switzerland (played by Irons) saves a suicidal woman on a bridge in Bern but she soon scarpers off, keaving in possession of her red coat, a book by a Portuguese author and a train ticket to Lisbon, used as a bookmarker.

Intrigued, and needing excitement in his life, he decides to use the ticket himself and heads off to Lisbon to do some literary sleuthing. In Portugal, he begins to see the world in a new light. There’s a love interest and some tense drama in flashbacks involving members of the Portuguese resistance just before the revolution of 1974.  (“What if your first assignment was to kill your father?”).

The film is in English, but I’m including it in the ‘Portuguese film’ category as it will interest anyone who has emotional ties with Portugal.  According to Visit Portugal, much of the film was shot in Lisbon’s historic districts and the main streets of Rua da Bica and Rua Misericordia. The trailer below still works,  even if it looks like the link is broken.

Read the book Night Train to Lisbon

The film is based on the novel of the same name (translated from German) by Swiss writer Pascal Mercier, and judging by the reviews on the Amazon website, it seems to be one of those books that you’ll either love or hate. While many reviewers awarded it five stars out of five, some gave it just one star. One review claimed that reading the book meant being subjected to “an involuntary language course in Portuguese“. Heaven forbid!

There wasn’t much Portuguese spoken in the movie, so for a deeper immersion in Lisbon, you might like to buy the book. In that case your immersion in a language course will be voluntary.

You can also go to Lisbon via my articles on the travel website Time To Wander. I haven’t taken a night train to Lisbon, but I’ve taken the night train from Lisbon to Madrid, and a day train to from Braga in northern Portugal to Lisbon. M5R

See also: Flower power: Portugal’s Carnation Revolution

You may also like


bearspawprint 06/12/2013 - 2:49 pm

Time to watch some flicks!! Thanks.

Bernard O'Shea 06/12/2013 - 2:56 pm

Enjoy, cheers

ladyofthecakes 06/12/2013 - 8:46 pm

I’ll be in Lisboa in a couple of weeks, YEY!

Bernard O'Shea 07/12/2013 - 11:10 am

That’s great! What’s on your itinerary?

ladyofthecakes 07/12/2013 - 9:01 pm

Eating cakes! What else?!

Bernard O'Shea 09/12/2013 - 10:58 pm

Lol. Make sure you eat some in Sintra (great place) and Belem as well as the centre of Lisbon.

ladyofthecakes 09/12/2013 - 11:08 pm

Will do! Thanks for the pointers 🙂 Although, where good cakes are concerned, I’m like a homing pigeon…

wannabe polyglot 07/12/2013 - 6:18 am

I’ve always wanted to go to Lisbon! I’ll have to get that movie, thanks for the rec.

Bernard O'Shea 07/12/2013 - 11:09 am

Hi, Lisbon is a lovely, laid-back city, one of those places that after a couple of days of getting your bearings, you just roam at will, as if you belong there.


Leave a Comment