Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station (1895)
Original Title: L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat
Also Known as: Train Coming into a Station
Director: Louis Lumière
I know I keep saying I’m going to do some old Edisons, but I felt like this needed to be covered first. The Lumière brothers, as I’ve said before, developed the first workable camera-and-projector system and this is one of their defining movies, which helped in establishing France as the center of global film production until the beginning of the First World War. This is a simple fifty-second film (the length of most film strips for the first few years), in which a train is seen pulling up to a platform, with the camera placed right at the edge of the platform for maximum effect. There are no edits or camera moves at all. This, like many early films was an “actuality” or documentary film, in which nothing was staged or pre-arranged, the cameraman simply showed up and filmed what happened. Legend has it that people were so shocked by the movement when it was first screened, that they panicked, some fainting or running out of the theater to avoid being hit by the oncoming train. This is almost certainly an urban legend, but it expresses the powerful impact that movies have on an audience, and our ability to suspend disbelief and lose ourselves in the images on the screen. I still get a thrill when I watch it, more because of its historical import than because I think I’ll be crushed by a train.
Run Time: 50 seconds