THE NIGHT VISITOR, Laslo Benedek (1971)

Usually someone recommends you an old film you’ve never heard of and doesn’t ring any bell at all. There might be many reasons for that, obviously, it’s impossible to be aware of every film as the supply of them is infinite. When you are interested in a particular genre, you always want to feed your knowledge, as you realize you only know a few percentage of it and feel kind of frustrated.

If you finally take the risk and accept the suggestion, the results can be awesome or you can end up remembering your friend’s mother, as the film was pure crap and you feel like completely having wasted your time. Chances are 50/50.

Some years ago, a close acquaintance remembered this film and recommended it enthusiastically, also commenting  Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullmann were the main actors. Weird, I had never heard of it, and even weirder, such established cast participating in a sort of horror-thriller movie?

I find the film title particularly appealing, The Night Visitor, if you don’t receive any sort of feedback, werewolves, creatures or even rapers can cross your mind, don’t you think? Well, if you’re looking for something similar you can forget about it.

The Night Visitor is actually a story of revenge.  

Salem (Max Von Sydow), declared mentally insane, was condemned to spend the rest of his days imprisoned at a high security asylum for criminals, accused of a brutal murder  with an axe. But he wasn’t who did it, and will figure out a plan to get revenge on his family, who betrayed him, specially his sister Ester (Liv Ullmann) and her husband Anton.

Don’t want to deal with the plot in depth to avoid any possible spoiling, but confined as he is, you can imagine he manages to escape the facilities in such a way, most likely Prison Break screenwriters took some ideas as a source of inspiration to depict one of the most popular and intense getaways we’ve witnessed on the screen lately.

Rhythm is quite reckless in the film since the very beginning, catching your attention immediately, and the way information is revealed as the plot and story are turning more intense is a good choice. You don’t know everything from the first moment, it takes you a while until you start assembling the pieces of the puzzle finding out why and what Salem’s planned.

I love the coldness of the main characters, probably the fact that actors are both Scandinavian (ok, Liv Ullmann was born in Tokyo, but her roots are Norwegian) help in their performances. Salem is perfectionist and calculating, and his sister Ester, a liar and a manipulative woman, wise enough as to pull the strings for her own benefit.

Question is, what would you do if you’re accused of something you didn’t do and are punished for the rest of your days? Will you take revenge if you had the opportunity? Suppose you got nothing to lose, as your life has been ruined for good…don’t think it’s  a matter of resentment, you’d develop stronger feelings beyond that, anger, loathing, disgust, frustration…but, up to a point to destroy your enemies by developing such a twisted and evil plan no matter the consequences?

This is a film which doesn’t show remarkable sets nor special effects, most likely low budget, focused on a consistent plot, high tension scenes,  and including one of the coolest endings I’ve ever seen.  I don’t understand why The Night Visitor has been completely ignored, I trusted the recommendation and the choice was really positive. Hope you trust me too!

One Response to “THE NIGHT VISITOR, Laslo Benedek (1971)”

  1. Malisha Says:

    I saw this film in the early 70s and remembered it (although with distortions) ever since. A magnificent piece of work.

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