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L’ARRIVÉE

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by Peter Tscherkassky

grade: 8

The movie screen is totally white. On the sides you can clearly see the holes of the film. And suddenly, in L’Arrivée we find ourselves right in a station. A train, as in the Lumière film, is about to arrive. What will happen next?

Trains, trains, trains

A train arrives at the station. As we all know, this simple image has meant a lot in film history. And indeed, when in 1896 the Lumière brothers first screened L’Arrivée d’un Train en Gare de La Ciotat, many viewers, seeing this train moving towards them, feared the worst, since few had yet really understood what this new invention called cinema consisted of. This event, as we can imagine, went down in history and became almost a milestone in film history itself.

Having always been fascinated by the seventh art, to the point of wanting to celebrate it constantly and in every way even in his own films, the master of avant-garde cinema Peter Tscherkassky, who was awarded the Goldenes Ehrenzeichens der Stadt Wien in 2019 and the Große Ehrenzeichen für Verdienste um das Land Niederösterreich in 2024, could not ‘forget’ to mention this event in his works. And so, in 1998, L’Arrivée was released, a homage to the Lumière brothers themselves and film history, but also an important discourse on how cinema itself has changed over the years.

The movie screen is totally white. On the sides you can clearly see the holes of the film. And suddenly, in L’Arrivée we find ourselves right in a station. A train, as in the Lumière film, is about to arrive. What will happen next? The image of the train splits, the two vehicles are about to collide. Positive becomes negative, the images become blurred, the holes in the film often return. Over the years, violence in cinema has become more and more present. Will there ever be a chance for salvation?

L’Arrivée wants to believe that a happy ending is always possible. And so, after the collision between the two trains, a woman (Catherine Deneuve) gets off the train, a man (Omar Sharif) walks up to her and the two kiss. There is a happy ending and it immediately makes us realise how everything is possible in cinema. Even believing that, even after a dramatic event, there is always the possibility of a better future.

As we saw recently in Train Again (2021), therefore, trains and all that they represent (both really and metaphorically) have always fascinated our Peter Tscherkassky. Just like the seventh art itself, the great protagonist of his works. Also in L’Arrivée, therefore, the director is not afraid to exaggerate, to play with the film, giving it every possible form, giving life to images that are now abstract and now extremely realistic, further enhanced by a precious black and white. In fact, in making this important film of his, the director used clips from the feature film Mayerling (Terence Young, 1968), wisely choosing to eliminate colour in order to give his L’Arrivée a pure form. Just as in the early years of cinema. Everything is possible in cinema. Only cinema offers us all these possibilities to play with images. And in seeing the film deform, shake, shift or go from positive to negative, the whole spectacle takes on an almost mystical character.

Original title: L’Arrivée
Directed by: Peter Tscherkassky
Country/year: Austria / 1998
Running time: 3’
Genre: experimental
Screenplay: Peter Tscherkassky
Cinematography: Peter Tscherkassky
Produced by: Peter Tscherkassky

Info: the page of L’Arrivée on iMDb; the page of L’Arrivée on the website of Peter Tscherkassky; the page of L’Arrivée on the website of the sixpackfilm