You better leave now if you want to catch this train.
If we do a good job for this worldwide company, we’ll be on the gravy train for more projects.
Sorry, for this class the train has already left the station – registration is over.
Thanks, but you’ve just interrupted my train of thoughts.
Trains offer a rich canvas for conveying many human contexts, challenges, disappointments and hopes. So it’s only natural that cinema would utilize this eclectic locomotive in various ways. And indeed, trains and train stations play a highly emotional role in Italian cinema and beyond. The dramatic sense of departure between loved ones towards the unknown future (I Vitelloni, Federico Fellini – 1953), the arrival to a new place and the constant search for the ever-waiting relative (Rocco and his Brothers – Luchino Visconti – 1960) – and many more.
Whereas in most films the train environment appears only in a few scenes to underscore a particular emotional development, then in this film the train is brought front and center and functions as the constant backdrop for the plot throughout the whole film.
Moreover, this film provide a cross-cultural triptych of three prominent directors; Ermanno Olmi (Italy), Abbas Kiarostami (Iran), and Ken Loach (Britain). Each brings his own artistic sensibilities to weave a story with characters riding the train from central Europe to Rome. The beauty of the film is how these characters transition from one story driven by one director to another. For that matter, it’s definitely worth viewing the Behind the Scenes bonus content to appreciate the careful planning that was involved in weaving these three independent plots into one cohesive artwork.
Often trains’ linear nature represent a metaphor for life’s winding rail where each station is another milestone en route to a final destination, that once accomplished nirvana supposedly descends. The same logic is also apparent in this film where Olmi, leveraging his signature style of using present to past flashbacks (see The Enagaged – I Fidanzati – 1963), Kiarostami by creating a somber brooding mood about past events and Loach by planting series of human miscommunications that unravel upon arrival to Rome.
No doubt, trains are vibrant microcosms where ephemeral human stories are produced every day. Think about it the next time you ride the train…