15 July 2010
Interestingly, this film had me thinking at various points that it takes real bravery and confidence to sit and watch a shot, or a scene, long past the point when we've understood what it's about. It's the strength of the filmmaker to look straight into those emotional moments and live there, rather than setting it up, feeling the gist of it, and moving to the next scene. Living there, sensually, being there -- there's no denying there's something to that. But on the other hand, this film also had me playing catch up and wondering if I missed something because it went too fast through moments. The trick here -- and it's not a fault but it keeps you on your toes -- is that Claire Denis isn't showing you any of the big dramatic moments in these characters' lives. Instead she's giving you the moments around them, the build up to the big decisions, the waiting for the change, and then the reaction to the change, or living with the decision. To put it in the movie's own vernacular, we see Lionel driving the train, and we see the train in commute with many passengers aboard. We do not see the stations, the embarking or disembarking of those who ride, nor the beginning or end of Lionel's many journeys within. And that's okay, because it works. It gives you time to think, to ruminate and be pensive. Time to wait. Time to realize. Time to feel aftershocks of minor and major moments even if we did not see them play out before us. It's nice. And for a story of sadness and coming (slowly, in no hurry) to the end of a line, seeing that end on the horizon but knowing its some way off, this is exactly how you want to feel about it. Linger where the feelings are, don't rush to get to the next station. These moments only happen once, and sometimes they're special, and that's why, according to Lionel, they deserve 35 shots of rum.