L’Arrivée D’un Train En Gare De La Ciotat

L’Arrivée D’un Train En Gare De La Ciotat

Kino Video

Release date: December 28th, 1895
Certificate: N/A
Running time: 50 seconds

Directors: Lumière Brothers

The Lumiere Institute, Lyon, France

We’ve seen some pretty crazy things in films haven’t we?

One of my earliest film memories is of Christopher Reeve as Superman, flying. Up until that moment I had never seen anyone fly and watching him in his red and blue outfit with his cape flapping in the wind, it suddenly seemed like a real possibility.

Being only 3 years old at the time, I promptly stood up on my seat in the cinema and tried to fly toward the screen. I got only as far as the seat in front of me and with the commotion that ensued my dad was forced to bring me home. I had again ruined another day out!

The point is, film has a profound effect on us, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not. From the suspense of Hitchcock, to the comedy of John Hughes, or the scares of Wes Craven to the magic of Steven Spielberg, they are journeys we embark on and as travellers in the celluloid world, what we experience can sometimes be extremely difficult to separate from the real world. We become so immersed in what Daniel Frampton refers to as the “film mind”, that it takes a few moments before we realise we’re not really there, or that it’s not really here.

L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat

Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the short film L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat by Auguste Lumière and Louis Lumière, better known as the Lumière Brothers. At only 50 seconds long, this silent film was really quite something back then. Consisting of one continuous real-time shot it shows a train pulled by a steam locomotive entering the French coastal town of La Ciotat.

As the train stops, passengers disembark and those waiting on the platform then board. It’s a short and simple glimpse of everyday life, but L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat’s impact was huge. Screened on December 28th, 1895, it’s one of the earliest films that people paid to see and the Lumière Brothers, who patented the cinematograph in 1895 and had been making and screening films already, must have known what sort of reaction the sight of a moving train in front of an audience would have.

Testing the status of the screen was very much what the first Lumière films were all about. As Kevin Brownlow has observed, what struck the early cinema viewer most of all was ‘head-on’ movement, i.e. movement towards the camera. This movement was conceived as its potential extreme. The first viewers of The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station [but L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat, 1895] were not sure where the limits of the space that the train intended to transcend really lay. (1)

  • (1) Yuri Tsivian, Richard Taylor Early cinema in Russia and its cultural reception (1998) University of Chicago Press

While the legend of first-night audiences running in terror from the approaching train might have been a promotional stunt, there’s no denying that it must have been a sight for them. Like a toddler in the early 80’s seeing a man fly for the first time, the possibility of what’s on screen being something more than that is exactly the magic that film captures.

As time goes by and as we get older, and maybe also because there are only a finite number of stories in the world, it gets harder for film to maintain that magic, but when it does I’m always there, ready to ruin another day out with my suspended belief.

About Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.