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Daily Dose of Darkness #2 The Arrival of a Train (The Opening Scene of La Bete Humaine)

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I watched the opening and in no way did I consider this a film noir. All I saw was two men doing a job, obviously they were proficient at their job and comfortable working together. They knew each other's rhythms which was evident in the head nods and hand signals.

I didn't feel any sense of foreboding of impending misfortune or anticipation that something was about to go terribly wrong.

 

I may want to watch the whole film again to see if maybe I missed something in the beginning sequence that gave some information about what the film was going to be about.

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This is more of a technical observation than a stylistic one, but I was impressed if they used on-location sound for this.  This was before tape recording (perhaps before portable recording technology, in general).  If, indeed, the sound was dubbed (e.g. via Foley techniques or similar) then I'm even more impressed, as they had it very well synchronized.

 

I don't think I would have thought of this in terms of film noir if it hadn't been mentioned that way.  I suppose the opening shot of feeding the firebox suggests the inferno, with the engineer and firmen in Vulcan/Pluto roles, and the train emerging out of the tunnel.

 

THe other interesting thing is that when they reach Le Havre, the music is a fanfare, as though they'd achieved a military victory or some other accomplishment on that scale.

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The train itself seemed like the villain. A master to the two slave workers. 

 

The setting left you feeling like you were almost on a collision course, but pulled in safely to the destination. 

 

It was the fear of the unknown which is why It fits the film noir style so well. 

 

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What adds to the darkness of this film for me is the appearance of sweat & dirt on their uniforms, it being so loud that the have to use sign language to communicate, it being so windy that they have to wear goggles & the wisps of white smoke everywhere.

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What adds to the darkness of this film for me is the appearance of sweat & dirt on their uniforms, it being so loud that the have to use sign language to communicate, it being so windy that they have to wear goggles & the wisps of white smoke everywhere.

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There was a horrifying moment at the end when fireman Roubaud is knocked out alone in the cab of the speeding locomotive and you're thinking of the recent Acela train wreck in Philly.

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The opening "scream" of the train whistle sets the mood immediately! Wow, what an opening!

The coal and fire, often symbols of hellfire, are obvious symbols and foreshadowing of things to come. The train as it hurtles down the track, dangerously fast, yet safe as long as it "stays on track," is artfully done.

The feeling is claustrophobic because of the intense noise of the train. The men cannot communicate except through whistles and hand signals. It takes your breath away, feeling in danger without being able to be heard.

The dark tunnels and intensifying of the noise as you are brought through them, along with the contrast of open air, is disconcerting and feels so oppressive and uncomfortable. I almost want to put my hands over my ears. The men working, however, seem completely confident, unconcerned with the danger all around, as they look over the edge as the land speeds by them, the wind blowing them harshly as they peer around the engine to see the tracks ahead.

The music begins just as the train passes the first station. The train does not slow but passes by it as the engineer looks at his watch, obviously on a time schedule.

The train pulls in to the La Bete station, a huge but eerily deserted place, save for a few scattered railroad workers standing next to the tracks as they approach the station.

 

We know this station will be important later.

We know that hellfire, danger, something "out of control" will occur and that somehow these men are involved. The suspense is built by the use of very realistic, thrilling ride on the train along with these two men. We are being "taken for a wild ride" in this film and it is not going to stay on track!

This is not the typical posh passenger car and dining car scenes we usually associate with trains in the movies with clever banter between actors as they ride in comfort. This is raw and disturbing footage, dangerous and frightening by contrast. Love it!

 

I do not know this movie and am going to look it up and watch the rest!

 

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Could it be that beginning with engineers on a train is in a sense a metaphor for all of those behind the film getting the film's journey under way as well? Or the idea of a train journey, which was much more laborious then for all involved, just stands as a metaphor for the journey the characters will face? Just as with the two engineers and their work, there is danger in the lives of the main characters, there is communication, not always in words, and the goal of synchronicity. Just as timing could be everything in operating a locomotive, it seemed timing mattered a great deal in the messy relationships that unfold in this story. There are many risks that none of them really need to take, but choose to - working on trains, getting into a relationship with someone else who is already in a relationship to an unstable person (which in this case they all seem to be). 

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While I didn't love this film, the train's whistle and speed did add to the tension of the film.  I also know that trains do become a central theme as well in film noir, and wonder that as well.

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I thought the music was quite odd when I first saw this. It seemed Germanic and triumphant. Not the kind of thing I would expect for a French film. What does work is the pacing of the music. It starts out quite fast, and then the tempo begins to broaden as we see the other trains on the side of the track. The tompo continues to slow gradually, sort of Mickey Mousing the pacing of the train as it pulls into the station. I haven't seen the full movie yet, so I don't know if I think this is a good choice of music. But it sure doesn't fit the noir vibe.

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Already my eyes have been opened that noir is more than what I thought it was.  I had a very narrow view of noir, pretty much the Double Indemnity/Out of the Past/The Killers mode and thought all noir were American.  In the first two daily doses I have seen non-American and different beginnings.  The realistic train beginning in La Bete Humaine parallels the traveling theme of many beginnings (transportation, movement, mobility, and its lack of rootedness).   The working class characters often anchor noir in some way.  The dirtiness and grittiness could be symbolic of the darkness that is to come in the actions of the characters.

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The film's realistic depiction of a train traveling gives us a sense that we are in a world that operates as realistically as ours does. We not only see a train traveling to a destination (revealed to us later), but it's HOW the train is getting there via our main characters displaying their work synchronicity along the way.

The "darker touches" could be from the angles of the train as it barrels down the tracks: shots from it blasting past an outside stationary watching it go further and further, to the camera hugging tightly against the engine from the outside to its wheels chugging along. Even the opening shot of the engine itself- a screaming inferno- hints that we will be thrown into one as well throughout this journey, and maybe even end the same way (admittedly, I have yet to see this film).

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Will the engineers be able to control this beast ( train ) or will it crash and send them to their deaths? There is much tension in this opening scene illustrated and highlighted by the many frightening sounds and sights flashing by. The engineers seem matter-of -fact about their duties, resigned to accept what ever the train wills for them. Has technology gone too far and completely dominated man? In the end the build up of the music and then the trailing off of it, suggests a triumph over the "forces of nature" and the engineers win out as the train slowly comes to a safe stop.

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The train screams as the fire in ts belly rages on. Just like ant noir character, burning with a fire in his/her belly.

Some one or something feeds that fire. We are hurling forward into the space to get there. Where are we going? We shall find out. Are we able to stop the beast in us? One can hope. In and out of the darkness. Constantly moving. Searching. 

the documentary style shoot takes us righ there on that speeding train. The style has been used so many times and is always effective.

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I watched the whole film for free. The opening scenes with the train's arrival caused me to physically tense up because it was the first time I had seen the film and I kept expecting the men who kept looking ahead to see someone or something on the rail and not be able to stop in time and derail, something unexpected and sudden. I also felt tense when the train was in the tunnel and it was pitch black. It was a journey through the dark unknown. Also, when the train was going through a short tunnel with another train speeding through the same tunnel at lightning speed- I wondered if some evil person would change the rails and make them crash! It set the film up in a heart pounding way that was very effective.

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Still reflecting, fire & water to the extreme, a steam locomotive engineer was at that time one of the highest technical positions one could hold and an express train engineer was the top of the heap. Think about it not only was he in control of 152 tons of locomotive & tender containing an explosive pressure of 242 psi that produced 2,700 hp but he was also pulling a 300 ton passenger train at high speed and making a timetable.  For perspective the world record speed for steam locomotives is 125.88 mph

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Have just finished watching "La Bete Humaine," which I'd not seen before, and while I enjoyed it, I'm not seeing how this film is considered to illustrate the beginnings of film noir. I admit up front that I don't know anything about French cinema. This film is definitely a tragedy, but I didn't feel an undercurrent of malice or evil, and while Simone Simon definitely smouldered, I never felt she was acting deliberately. Several darker themes are hinted at, but don't really seem to come into play, more suggestions as to why these characters behave as they do. Having just rewatched Akira Kurosawa's "Throne of Blood," I find more similarity in these two pictures that I did with any of the other film noir movies featured Friday. What am I missing?

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In film noir ordinary people get swept up into extraordinary events by sheer chance or because of their fatal flaws. 

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Haven't read the discussion on this one yet as I wanted to try and answer the set questions best I can. I'm sure I'm going to repeat things that have already been said.  Also unlike M I've never actually seen the film, although I have seen Lang's remake which I think may be playing a bit into my thoughts on it.

 

The film's realistic depiction of the train gives you an admiration for the characters abilities in their own areas, they are guiding the hurtling and impressive train, it's a hard physical job and they come across as adept and skilled. You can admire them, it plays into the common early 20th century thing of a boy choosing an Engine Driver as a dream job, it's a modern and prestigious but still blue collar position, fitting with Gabin's image and a quick shorthand to say that the character has something worth losing before the plot kicks in 

 

 It builds up the characters but also creates this feeling of something speeding and potentially dangerous that could go off course with fatal results if the humans involved aren't up to what they are doing, any mistake would lead to something they can't rectify.

 

As the moral choices involved in the film come up the mens lives will presumably hurtle out of control based on their own seemingly small mistakes. 

 

A lot of Noir seems to be about the speed of 'modern' (largely post war american) life pushing out the old certainties of morality, of people getting ground out by the unforgiving machinery of modernity. The high speed train linking (Paris?) and Le Havre and the men as the servants of the machine kind of fits with that. It's a bit of a stretch but then the movie is well outside the usual parameters of Noir

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That was some opening. I admired the work ethic that the two railmen demonstrated. Talk about working conditions.

 

The speed and claustrophobic tunnels made me think that something could go wrong at any moment, with little time to react or avoid a disaster. I agree with the comments on the music: didn't seem to match the scene.

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This is the only film on today's schedule that I haven't yet seen (and I have the DVD! for shame...) so I am viewing the opening as a stand-alone thing at this point.

The opening brought out a lot of things that I found interesting. The work of these men is very mechanical and repetitive, and it doesn't allow for real human interaction.  The sheer volume of the train's noises reduces them to rudimentary hand gestures.  We can quickly establish that these men have worked together for quite a while, as they know each other's gestures instantly.  Gabin is also established as the dominant person in this work relationship--knowing the idea of the story (I've seen Human Desire many times), this foreshadows the personal relationship.

We also see that this is dirty, demanding work...surely these men would appreciate things that are clean and quiet in their lives.

In noir, there is often a fatalism to the (anti)hero--he is being sent down an unclear path and sometimes can only minimally change that course.  What better metaphor for this than a train?  Yes it can be slowed down or speeded up, and occasionally there are splits in the track--but basically, it's going down those rails to its destination.  And these engineers can't even see where they are going without an extra effort! 

And we have the train starting in light, going into the claustrophobic darkness of a tunnel.  It does come out into light on the other side...but we don't know yet whether this will play out as a pattern for the story, or if it is another indication of the routine, predictable nature of the train.

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What struck me was the lack of dialogue. There was no dialogue between the two characters throughout the entire opening. In fact the only noise was a grunt to do work together and that came two minutes and twenty seconds into the shot. Another was the lack of music. Music almost always starts a movie after the movie logo, yet here there was no music until three minutes and thirteen seconds into the shot. 

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My first impression was of impending danger. From the initial angles, it felt like the train was going to fast. I quickly sensed from the crew that all was normal. This was everyday to them. They have worked this job for so long they don't even need to speak but use hand signals and almost read each other's minds. As the train slows going into the station and the perspective changes to to front of the train, I sense reverence. There is a drastic contrast in the speed of the train at the beginning to the end of the clip.

 

I've never seen this movie, but this clip and this opening makes me want to see more.

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