Train Again

18 years after Kurt Kren produced his third film 3/60 Bäume im Herbst [3/60 Trees in Autumn], he shot his masterpiece 37/78 Tree Again.  18 years after I created my third darkroom film L’Arrivée (an homage to the Lumière brothers and their 1895 L'Arrivée d'un train), I embarked on Train Again. This third film in my “Rushes Series” is an homage to Kurt Kren that simultaneously taps into a classic motif in film history. My darkroom ride took a few years, but we finally arrived: All aboard! - Peter Tscherkassky 


The acceleration of the world and perception radically intensifies over the course of the 19th century. While the mobilization of the gaze generates unforeseen freedom, it also fuels anxiety. From the very start, cinema and the train are inextricably linked as factories of newfound upheaval and uprootedness. The audience exposes itself to the electric shadows at its own risk, guided by the Brothers Lumière who in 1895 also celebrate the arrival of animated photography on the train platform at La Ciotat – or by the young René Clair when he sends a hearse on wildly careening rails in Entr’Acte (1924). Likewise, Peter Tscherkassky's roller coaster ride through a methodically constellated frame-by-frame landscape of escalating cinema commences with frenetic action and the passing of a baton: Horse-drawn coaches and steeds compete one last time against the iron horse, the riders intercut with the train at dizzying, super-imposing velocity. Train Again is a phantom ride through the engine room of the seventh art, a ceremony of the (violent) mechanics of railway vehicles and image transporters.   Tscherkassky flits through the history of the filmic avant-garde, conceiving his work as a centrifuge of quotations from the pantheon of visionary cinema. He conjures heaven and hell, embarking on a collision course fearlessly bound for the apocalyptic. One could call this highly complex and simultaneously elemental film a darkroom action experiment, an underground blockbuster, or a kinetic painting in a thousand shades of grey. It is woven out of twitching film frames, flashing light, and spectacularly collapsing motifs – a concrete abstract cinema of meta-attractions and frenzy. Train Again is an ecstatic ode to the fragility and explosive force of the medium. Cinema in our day and age is under attack, but in this phase of its decline its fierce fighting power is – quod erat demonstrandum – utterly intact.

Stefan Grissemann1