The Train As the Allied forces approach Paris in August 1944, German Colonel Von Waldheim is desperate to take all of France’s greatest paintings to Germany. He manages to secure a train to transport the valuable art works even as the chaos of retreat descends upon them. The French resistance however wants to stop them from stealing their national treasures but have received orders from London that they are not to be destroyed. The station master, Labiche, is tasked with scheduling the train and making it all happen smoothly but he is also part of a dwindling group of resistance fighters tasked with preventing the theft. He and others stage an elaborate ruse to keep the train from ever leaving French territory.
The Train John Frankenheimer’s “The Train” stars Burt Lancaster as Paul Labiche, a French Resistance member. It is the 1511th day of the German occupation, and Paul is attempting to prevent Colonel Franz von Waldheim (Paul Scofield) from transporting French art collections out of France and into Germany.
Throughout the 1960s, Franhenheimer made a series of films which flaunted their audacious cutting and kinetic camera work. “The Train” is no different. Virtually every shot is special, the film packed with logistically complex sequences, fine location photography and beautiful, now-extinct steam engines, ink-black monsters which lend the film an air of techno-romance.
“Beauty belongs to the man who can appreciate it!” Waldheim yells, his words speaking to the misguided exceptionalism of whole nations. Labiche shoots him and walks away. This simple moment of revenge is complicated throughout the picture. No painting is worth a life, Labiche tells us, yet strewn around him are the consequences of his very plan to thwart Waldheim; hundreds dead, all for art which Labiche personally has no interest in. Beauty belongs to the man who appreciates, Labiche perhaps wonders as the film fades to black, so long as he’s French?