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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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Suspense builds in the tunnel sequences,  Unknown what's ahead and the approaching train appears to be on the same track until closer perspective is obtained.  Although the actors are relatively static, excitement builds with the sounds and motion of the train.  A compelling opening scene.

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A lot of people have noticed the triumphant music at the end of the scene but a lot people seem to look at it positively and it gave me a sense of dread. The music suggests that there is a reason to celebrate if the train makes it to the station. This also suggests that the train often doesn't make it to the station. I know that driving a train was (and maybe still is?) a dangerous job but it was also something that these men did on a daily basis. It doesn't seem like a reason to celebrate, so for me the triumphant music is a warning of dangers to come in the movie. 

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I haven't seen "La Bete Humaine", but have set my DVR to record it on Friday and will watch it Saturday morning. Having seen the opening however, I am certainly very intrigued to see the rest of the film. Watching the opening, I was impressed by the different shots of the train, both interior and exterior, taken from different angles. All the time, I was expecting something specific to happen. Perhaps we would see passengers on board, and their interactions with each other. Perhaps the train would pass something happening that we weren't "supposed" to see, like the strangling on the opposite train in the Miss Marple film "Murder She Said." But we see none of this. The train arrives at the station, and the clip ends.

 

The scene kept me guessing what was going to happen next. The speed of the train, and the quick succession of different shots made me suspect something was coming, and I was certainly on the edge of my seat. I'm eager to see the rest of the film, and where it goes from here.

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We've all seen enough movies to know that we (generally) don’t get shown something for no reason. This is the opening… that alone suggests something striking is bound to happen soon. It’s how movies are. Then add in this instance cacophony, speed, smoke, great iron things near frail humans... all spelling out something imminent… and it's going to be powerful and unpleasant.

You could open a movie with someone hanging washing out on a line and the viewer would be excepting something terrible, certainly striking, to happen any second. I would.

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  1. first thing we see is fire, the fire is not a cozy one but one that crushed down things (in this case coal), it makes us naturally panic because of our own general saftey/makes you think of inferno

 

We see men putting coal into the fire, it is hard work

 

we see the train going very very fast, this is all because of the hardwork that is put into keeping the train going. the train has no will of it's own, it's only function is to keep on going ruthlessly untill the people directing say otherwise.

 

two men are directing the train, it takes a lot of observation, one motions to the other to do something (the other has a cigarette, which makes him seem more laid back), trains are loud so it is told through a code like motion instead of words.

 

we go into a tunnel, everything is a scary pitchblack, this is just an everyday thing for the workers, it does not bother them, they know where they are going and not seeing anything means they don't have to be on look out. they seem relaxed.

 

for a couple of seconds all we hear is noise, the tunnel is not a wide open space so the noise becomes louder from all the echoes

 

the end of the tunnel fades in, we feel relief

 

two fast trains pass each other, they are machines so they pay no mind t each other, all that matters is moving forward

 

we see the worker's coal covered face peep out against the countryside, the country side is rural but his face and the machine give off a more urban feel. probably contrast?

 

the driver is keeping an eye out for something, but what? we don't see anything particularly special but we are not experts like he is, he signals to his partner to do something. 

 

the tracks start to look a little different, the two workers are putting in hard work again (originally only one but the other gives a hand, tho does take a small look ahead inbetween)

 

a bridge comes, it is made of many sort of metals juxtaposed reflecting lots of lights against the tame country side.

 

the tunel has holes in it but still causes a lot of noise, this might be because it's a bridge between two peices of land instead of a tunnel that rest on one stable peice of land. the noises lessen immediately as the get off of it

 

the worker in charge asks the other guy to look through the window, this si curious because untill now it has only been the other one who inspected.

 

a completly different passage way emerges, it is also a bridge but made of brick and much much large, it also bends unlike the one we just went on.

 

we hear screeching, it is not a pleasant sound

 

we see houses and the music starts, are we nearing civilisation/the destination/home?

 

yes we are nearing a station, we can see smoke from another train and the worker checking the clock to see if we are on time. The station is called "Le Havre"

 

We see more trains and a lot of industrial imagery, the triumphant music is a big change from the nonchalant silent countryside. There is a lot of smoke and the train screeches again

 

We have arrived to our station, it is very modern and industrial. the edgyness is perfect for noir.

 

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I was immediately struck by two things: life is hard and dirty for the engineers. They speed into darkness before emerging into the town where the story will presumably take place. We don't have a fog, but we do have the smoke from the wheels and there seems to be a have in the final shot. Ultimately I get the sense that this will be a working man's story.

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I haven't seen the entire film (or even heard of it until I recorded it yesterday), but there were a few things that stuck out to me while watching the clip. The pace of the train made me a little nervous, building up fear that a huge accident was going to happen. I also didn't notice any passengers on the trains, which was eerie. I really liked the long tunnel shot, which goes to black only to eventually emerge out into the light. I thought the music near the end of the clip was ironic, almost comical, and reminded me a bit of Looney Tunes. However, since I haven't seen the whole movie, I can't make sense of it in a wider context.

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I have to start by saying that I was watching this clip on my commute to work. I take the CalTrain along the San Francisco peninsula. As the film's train approached its station, my train was also making one of its stops. I was, quite literally, along for the ride. :) If anyone reading this takes a commuter train, I HIGHLY recommend watching this again during your commute.

 

Here are my responses to the clip:

The dark touches are quite literal: the dark passage through the tunnels, but I love the contrast of light particulary as the train approaches the other side. There is a sense of relief once you exit the other side; sort of like a rebirth.

 

The train whistle is more of a scream as though in agony.

FIre: damnation.

 

This train = bat out of hell. ???

The speed adds to the suspense (especially when you are, yourself, on a train viewing this clip).

The music expands on the train's arrival creating an aura of success.

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I viewed this from the standpoint of scenes which brought American films to mind.  The initial train scene reminded me of the beginning of The Narrow Margin and Cry Danger.  The trains approaching each other made me think of the scene in Crack Up where Pat O'Brien sees the train approaching in the distance.  Finally the train entering the tunnel reminded me of the end of North By Northwest.

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Good observation, @spsthompson. I thought for a moment that one engineer used a hand sign for 'drink,' and I fully expected the other to produce a bottle, take a nip, and pass it. This action would have added to the 'laissez-faire attitude' displayed by the workers engaged in their daily drudgery.

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I was struck by the human/machine contrast.

On the machine side, striking elements included fire, darkness, shrieking train whistle, oncoming train, narrow tunnels, and other locomotives hulking like powerful buffalo along the approach to the station.

On the contrasting human side, the characters are alert and active but also calm. Their friendship and trust sheds the brightest light in the sequence.

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The technique is visual and the pace is headlong. These are hard working men caught up in their everyday duties and everyday concerns. We await to see where it leads and if it leads to something "in over their heads".

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I have to start by saying that I was watching this clip on my commute to work. I take the CalTrain along the San Francisco peninsula. As the film's train approached its station, my train was also making one of its stops. I was, quite literally, along for the ride. :) If anyone reading this takes a commuter train, I HIGHLY recommend watching this again during your commute.

 

Here are my responses to the clip:

The dark touches are quite literal: the dark passage through the tunnels, but I love the contrast of light particulary as the train approaches the other side. There is a sense of relief once you exit the other side; sort of like a rebirth.

 

The train whistle is more of a scream as though in agony.

FIre: damnation.

 

This train = bat out of hell. ???

The speed adds to the suspense (especially when you are, yourself, on a train viewing this clip).

The music expands on the train's arrival creating an aura of success.

Wow, you took the "draw us in" element excellently! Really great responses, Thanks!

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Like yesterday's film, I've not seen this one either so I'm coming from a place of not knowing anything about where the filmmakers intend to take the audience. However, the cinematography right of the bat with that claustrophobic train ride does set a tone for a gripping Noir Thriller!! Can't wait to see the rest!!

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The opening scene has great energy. The camera work is impressive, especially the shots from the wheels' point of view, and the shots in the tunnel (loved the total darkness gradually giving way to the light at the end of the tunnel). 

 

But it doesn't feel noirish. I don't get a sense of foreboding. The scenes are mostly open, and well-lit (except for the tunnel). The action is full of energy, like a train scene in a western (Butch Cassidy, for instance). In fact that's what it felt like to me, Renoir directing a "Baguette" (can't be Spaghetti in France) Western. The music also gives it energy, almost an optimism. 

 

To be honest, this felt like an ending scene, more than an opening scene. The train, pulling into the station, after a story of drama and action. Coming home...

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An amazing entry into this film. It is new to me. The power, the thrusting forward, man barely able to feed the machine, the clnging, the clacking, whistles, man and machine, the speed, increasing, penetrating, pummeling, there is no light, at least not for long.

Busses plundering through the night ( a favorite ikage...whatb was that Dana Andrews film?) Anyway have to run. Amazing entry into this film.

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The speed of the train was emphasized in this opening, which was intensified by the fact that there was initially no music mitigating my emotional response.  The natural sounds lent a darker quality to the opening than did the subsequent music, which actually lightened the mood.

 

I was struck by the juxtaposition of the sooty train and the men smoking cigarettes.  The men's sooty faces gave the opening a realistic quality that soap-clean looks would not, contrasting this noir film from other genres.  They lived their workday lives amid the dirt and soot, and were not bothered about adding more heat and smoke with their cigarettes. 

 

Their cigarette smoking also underscored their familiarity with their work.  The men were at ease and recognized one another's gestures.

 

I'm not sure what this film lends to film noir, except that, like M, it uses everyday sounds to create a darker mood.

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There was a great sense of speed, or haste. The low camera shots from the side of the train emphasized that. Also a couple of shots of the track before arriving at the station took advantage of bends/lack of visibility in the track.

 

The first example of this has a train coming towards us quickly after leaving a tunnel. It gave me a bit of a jump scare because at first glance you're uncertain which track the other train is on. There was a funny moment for me after that because our train then goes under a bridge and the sound of that was like a mechanical sigh of relief.

 

The second, and final bend before the station is shown to us on the engineer's side for one second before the engineer signals for his assistant to look ahead for trouble. This is asked of a character that up to this point has seemed aloof, disinterested, and preoccupied only with smoking. Even as they show us that his signal of all clear is accurate, I still felt unsure of his ability to be reliable. It was as if there were still some unforeseen danger ahead implied by his eyes being our witness.

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I have not seen La Bete Humaine yet, and I have not read a synopsis of it, so I cannot say how the realistic depiction of a train adds to the opening of the film. I suspect my reaction to the opening is not a widely-shared one, as it was deeply personal. The early scene in which the fireman stokes the boiler furnace reminded me of an ancestor of mine who had to do this sort of work many years past his physical prime. I have been told that shoveling tons of coal every day nearly killed him.

 

So, I became caught up in watching what the fireman did in hopes of gaining a better understanding of what his life had been like. I found myself wondering what some of his actions were intended to accomplish - for example, the scene in which a long lever bar is raised and lowered. I wish I knew what that was about, ha ha.

 

But to break away from my personal reflections, I think the film's opening might be a foreshadowing of The Human Beast, as suggested by the French title. In this clip, the two men are beast-like in that they do not use the quality that separates us from animals - speech. Instead, they whistle or touch each other to gain attention, and then they communicate solely through gestures. Also, they are so frantically busy operating the train that there seems little opportunity for living outside the present moment or having thoughts about anything other than train work. They work like beasts, or hopped-up automatons. Their hard work and grittiness is echoed in their clothing, and by the soot that darkens their faces outside their goggles.

 

When they pull into the terminal at Le Havre, the absence of other people there to greet their arrival reinforces the feeling that their goal was simply to get there, and not to do anything after that. Events along the way, such as passing through a dark tunnel and by another train seem to be mere markers along the journey - no interaction takes place. I don;t know what to make of the music at the end. I cannot decide if it is meant to be triumphant or something else.  I look forward to seeing the movie and finding out if my perception of the opening has any validity at all.     

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A scene for train geeks like me! Mostly I just loved this because I am a train geek and the footage was shot from a moving train so it puts us, the viewers, in the driver's seat. It certainly has the look of being inside a train, the funkiness. I reflected that it might not be a good idea to smoke while the train is in a tunnel (carbon monoxide) but when did film noir guys ever worry about their health? Funny thing is, they named  a boat, not a train, after Jean Gabin.

 

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never seen this.so looking foward to it

 

the shot of the fire jumping right into it as it were

 

the music means to me anyway that we were expecting something bad to happen but it never did

 

very very cool

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I think the fact that the workers are covered in grime gives it a darker touch. Train travel in film often appears glamorous (and does in this scene at the very end), but this shows us that there's a lot of grunt work that goes into it. I haven't seen the film yet, but it leads me to believe that they're establishing a dark, gritty world for the noir hero/antihero to aspire to escape from.

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