Tuesday, 8 November 2011

One-track mind

'I dreamt I married Micke Larsson. He plays guitar and sings in Black Devils. It was so nice.'

The highlight of Swedish director Roy Andersson's 2007 film You, the Living must be a dream sequence, in which lonely fan Anna dreams of marrying Micke. The musician - played by Eric Bäckmann, who was found through a famous Stockholm music store - serenades her as their marital home moves off through the countryside, before pulling into a station (pictured). In the film's only cut, the camera joins a crowd wishing the couple well. According to Andersson it is a happy scene, full of the generosity missing from modern life.

'This was an old idea I'd had for many, many years,' he reminisces in the DVD extras. 'Originally the idea was to have a house move on a motorway, rolling from Skåne to Stockholm, on logs. My inspiration was from childhood when they built Skarvik, the refinery, in Gothenburg.

'They wanted the best harbour, and this was found in Skarvik, but there were a hundred houses there. It was so important they had this place they moved the houses, on logs. I saw this as a child and found it fascinating that they were so well-built they could move a couple of miles. I like doing scenes like this, that are complicated but turn out so well... It's a great feeling seeing this train move out.'

It reminds me of one of my favourite sequences in all cinema, when 'young buck' Moraldo finally decides to leave his spoilt, spineless friends in I Vitelloni (1953, pictured). Fellini narrated his partly autobiographical film, saying: 'I've always talked of leaving but only one of us, one morning, without saying a word to anyone, really did leave.'

At an empty station, reminiscent of that in Cinema Paradiso, Moraldo is asked by a boy, Guido, where is he going and what will he do? 'I have to leave, get away,' he replies. The response - 'Don't you like it here?' - goes unanswered. As the train pulls away, the camera passes through the bedrooms - the sleeping lives - of the group he's left behind.

I've written elsewhere about great train films, and recently Nile Rodgers posted about train songs on his wonderful blog. There are any number, of course, but I would like to add a couple of tracks (sorry!) by The Divine Comedy to his list. On the band's most recent album, Bang Goes the Knighthood, Neil Hannon returned to a theme he explored on album Liberation (1993), in Europe by Train (echoing Rodgers' fascination with Kraftwerk's Trans Europe Express). The form of building, looped samples is the same on new song Beside the Railway Tracks, the effect 17 years on even more poignant.

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