L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (1895)

From The Quietus:

For almost as long as it has existed, cinema has been just as obsessed with trains as sweet TikTok superstar Francis Bourgeois. The capacity for trains to amaze inspired one of the longest running urban legends of the cinematic medium, as The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat was alleged to have audience members running away from the first screening. When trains returned to the screen though, the audiences returned too, to witness these incredible liminal spaces in cinema. More so than any other form of transport, there is a limitless wonder to trains on screen. They are places for mystery (as shown by the endless adaptations of Murder on the Orient Express), for thrills (from The General to Train to Busan) and they are overwhelmingly places to fall in love. That is where Compartment No. 6 joins the tracks.


The film follows Laura and Ljoha, two travellers to Murmansk forced to share the titular compartment as their train treks across the tundra. The narrative blueprint can be found in Brief Encounter and Before Sunrise, two classics that define (and name) the entire “brief encounter” romance genre. The former uses a train station to foster an illicit affair, whereas it’s the latter that Compartment more obviously draws inspiration from. Before opens with Jessie and Celine meeting in a train carriage heading to Vienna, hosting the meeting that makes possible the impossible night (and impossible life) they are about to share. Both explicitly highlight the train as the principal location for establishing impossible romantic connections, yet there is one crucial difference between these two films and Compartment. Aside from a few scenes bookending the film and moments stopped at stations, the romance of Compartment blossoms not in train stations or in the cities where these stations are found, but in the train itself.

Compartment No. 6 (2021)

“Let’s Not Rush: A Love Letter To Trains On Screen”, Henry Jordan, The Quietus

Comments are closed.