Director Terrence Malick is a master at assembling music, dialogue, sound effects and images through editing so that the specifics of time and place that normally define movies are subsumed into a perpetual present, an endless moment that the viewer doesn't so much watch as ride, the way a kite rides a breeze. The train sequence near the beginning of "Days of Heaven," 103 seconds of bliss scored to banjo wizard Leo Kottke's "The Train and the Gate," is a great example. It describes a finite journey from one U.S. state to another, but it's not about what's happening or where it's happening; it's about the thoughts and feelings that tumble through the narrator's head as she remembers it all.
As Tony Scott's Unstoppable hits theaters this week, film writers around the internet are reminiscing about train movies. Time magazine has a nice list of their Top 10 Train Movies, but film critic Matt Zoller Seitz has a slideshow over at Salon that I think really gets at why rail travel can be such a fascinating film subject. From his description of Malick's Days of Heaven:
Posted by David Chen Saturday, November 13, 2010 8:32 AM