NIGHT TRAIN (Poland / 1959)
Set to an elegantly mysterious lullaby, strands of which accompany certain characters and images throughout the film, the opening overhead shot of a swarming train station ultimately proves to be a symbolic delineation of humanity itself, not to mention that of the society whose cross-section we encounter in our journey in Night Train (Pociag). Directed by the gifted and versatile Jerzy Kawalerowicz (Mother Joan of the Angels , Austeria , Quo Vadis?  -- who, alongside the likes of Andrzej Wajda, Tadeusz Konwicki and late Andrzej Munk, is regarded as a one of the key members of the post-W.W.II Polish film movement -- this alluring, noirish effort concerns a handful of passengers in the sleeping car of a crowded overnight express heading for the Baltic Sea coast during the holidays. Conflict arises early as a couple of strangers selfishly end up vying for privacy. Jerzy (the late, great Leon Niemczyk, Knife in the Water , Inland Empire ), a seemingly distraught and unsettled individual, eventually agrees to share a cabin with a beauteous blonde named Marta (Lucyna Winnicka, Mother Joan of the Angels; Mrs. Kawalerowicz), who herself appears to be hiding a mystery in her soulfully resigned eyes ("No one wants to love, everyone wants to be loved," she once muses). Referencing Hitchcock and Lang, the film subtly incorporates the disparate group of passengers, some still nursing the emotional wounds of the Second World War and the uncertain political period which followed, while others, a generation younger perhaps, are either looking for love or are inclined to flaunt their vengeful mentality (the opportunity for which emanates once its discovered that a wife-murderer, the news of whom were found in a newspaper article being read early on in the film, is riding on the train). Exquisitely shot in b&w -- the expressive lighting schemes are absolutely masterful, especially considering the spare, claustrophobic setting -- Night Train is an existential yet intimate gem which contemplates various pertinent concepts, including that of, as one character remarks, "the modern disease, fear of anonymity."
*The film won the "Premio Evrotecnica" award at the 1959 Venice Film Festival.