Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Travelling through film by Train

Cinema's journey never ends, zipping through new and exciting landscapes of unseen worlds glimpsed out of a window, a window that looks like a screen...

The stills are taken from:

Brief Encounter 
World of Apu 
News from Home
Only Yesterday
Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl
Summer at Grandpa's
Strangers on a Train
Limits of Control
Casino Royale
Flight of the Red Balloon
Cafe Lumiere
Fallen Angels


  1. Another intriguing trackdown of a cinematic meme. A few that I might add myself-- John Frankenheimer's "The Manchurian Candidate" and maybe even "Seconds", one where Frank Sinatra is "deprogramed" by Janet Leigh, the other where a middle-aged man is contacted by a shadowy organization promising a new life before boarding a train to his suburban home; Rintaro's "Galaxy Express 999" where a beautiful blonde accompanies a young boy out to travel to a planet where he can purchase a robot body and avenge his mother's death; both Terrence Young's "From Russia With Love" and Satoshi Kon's "Paprika", the first featuring a classic close-quarter fight to the death between Bond and Robert Shaw in a sleeping car, the other with a quick dream-homage to that moment in the detective's nightmare.

    So often are trains symbolic of moments of change and transition, bridging us between two points on a map and two points in time. These are some of my favorites, as they deal with trains as sites for psychological transformation (recovering from brainwashing, literally getting a new lease on life, coming to terms with past memories). There's also a classic episode of "The Twilight Zone" called "A Stop at Willoughby", where a frustrated New York executive daydreams of a turn of the century hamlet on his way back home on the train every day (or is it REALLY just a dream?), and the original proposed ending to Fellini's "8 1/2", which would've taken place in a train (a counterpoint to the opening traffic jam sequence).

    I just remembered, right now, another recent example (too recent to include here, for obvious reasons)-- the first "awakening" sequence from "Inception", revealing that Leo and his men are hijacking Ken Watanabe's dream while riding a bullet-train in Japan. I wonder if I'm growing less or more fond of that movie. I'm certainly more fond of that example, though, as it had a nice, sly joke-- dream-theft on the sleeper car.

  2. nice. i'd also include the narrow margin (fleischer, 1952).


  3. Thanks for the suggestions Bob.

    "So often are trains symbolic of moments of change and transition, bridging us between two points on a map and two points in time."

    Yes indeed. I wrote a little piece on DRAG ME TO HELL a while back about the importance of train station platforms in film (and in life) as a place of a new journey, of farewell and reunion - the intricacies of which Sam Raimi used to full advantage at the end of the film.

    I've avoided INCEPTION so far as the trailers / write-ups turned me off.

  4. I'm glad you liked it, Gravitysrainbow.

    I haven't seen THE NARROW MARGIN but I have heard only good things about. I will check it out when I have the opportunity.

    You have some nice and interesting photos on your blog.


  5. This was a very evocative post, especially your short text at the beginning. It brought back memories of how as a child, I would love to go on car rides anywhere just because I loved looking out the window. The window of a car, just like the window of a train, really is just like a movie screen, and I often wonder to what extent those experiences made me love cinema as a medium. To this day, car trips, bus rides, journeys by train, etc. are very enjoyable to me because of the sights they enable for me. This "scopophilia" (we could easily bring Rear Window into the discussion as the static corollary to the movement of trains) is an interesting subject I want to understand better.

  6. Thank you Trevor.

    I'd never thought about the connection between window and screen until I started to compile the shots. It was in the back of my mind, but no more. Of course cars do come into it too.

    We do sometimes talk of views outside of the windows of buildings in relation to paintings and photos, so transport gives us the moving image equivalent - film.

    Speaking of evocative, I like your site which shows how you can say so much with just one shot.

  7. wonderful images!
    I dearly love traveling by train (especially when I get the sleeper car, lol). It is so relaxing and such an inspiring way to see things that you miss at 30,000 feet.
    Dreaded Dreams
    Petunia Scareum

  8. Cheers Pete!

    Of all the ways to travel, going by train still has a bit of old-world romance to it.

  9. This is an excellent set of images here, Stephen. The train is of much importance to cinema. It signifies its birth. As a critic noted, a strip of film resembles a train by itself. Great work!


  10. "The train is of much importance to cinema. It signifies its birth. As a critic noted, a strip of film resembles a train by itself."

    Ah, I'd never really thought about that. It does indeed resemble a film strip.

    Many thanks.