Art film of the early 1980s
Dianne Foster | USA | 07/31/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I'm sure CAUGHT ON A TRAIN is one of those arty films that I will have to watch several times to fully appreciate. I bought the DVD because I like Peggy Ashcroft (JEWEL IN THE CROWN) and Michael Kitchen (FOYLE'S WAR). Only thing is that Kitchen is very young in this film and not much like that wizened fellow called Foyle. The third actress listed in the DVD credits (Wendy Raebeck) is a relatively minor character, mostly a witness or observer of the action between Ashcroft and Kitchen. Kitchen's young man (Peter) is an employee of a book publising firm in England .Peter represents the face of modern Europe, extremely in need of success (at any cost?), and dispising the "old order" represented by Ascroft's Frau Messner. The interaction between the two characters is mesmerizing. Depending on your age and outlook on life you will find the story amusing, frustrating or sad. The setting is some time after WWII on the express train that runs from Ostend to Vienna. The train is the backdrop for the whole film, and the shots of the vintage express are woth the price of the DVD for those who love trains (me).
The scenes from the train of stations, rivers, industrial areas and farm land will probably never be seen again in quite the same way, as Europe has "modernized" it's old cities farms (progress from the perspective of those who value success as the reason for living, a disaster for those who cherish the past). If you appreciate an artistic exploration of the intense psychological exchange that can take place between two fellow passengers on a long trip, you will find this 80 minute film holds it's own with films of it's ilk."
Makes Amtrak look posh
Joseph Haschka | Glendale, CA USA | 07/03/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"If you think European long-distance trains are the epitome of classy service, perhaps you should see CAUGHT ON A TRAIN, a British dark comedy that has similarities to 1985's AFTER HOURS in that it focuses upon the macabre, nighttime misadventures of the lead character otherwise out of his element.
Peter (Michael Kitchen, very young with lots of hair), a self-absorbed English businessman on his way to Linz, boards the Ostend to Vienna Trans European Express. Peter usually travels by air, but has decided this once to take to the rails just to see what it's like. Big mistake.
At first, the journey looks promising. Peter is to share his six-seat reserved compartment with a very attractive and sexy American girl, Lorraine (Wendy Raebeck). Perhaps they'll have the space to themselves? But that's not to be as other occupants crowd in, including Frau Messner (Peggy Ashcroft), an imperious, impatient, Viennese grand dame who's used to getting her way, and getting it now. She and Peter immediately lock horns as she demands, and he refuses to relinquish, his window seat. Then, Peter almost misses the train's departure as he reluctantly volunteers to make a dash to the station newsstand to get the old lady some magazines for the trip. Their relationship goes from bad to worse to bizarre such that, by the time Peter stumbles off the carriage at his destination, he's exhausted, unshaven, shirtless, mud-spattered, with a torn suit jacket, discomfited, and minus his ticket.
CAUGHT ON A TRAIN isn't a complete success. The potential provided by the Lorraine character goes nowhere for reasons that aren't immediately apparent. Indeed, her presence is such a plot dead end that I felt she should've been left out of the script entirely. The emphasis is, and rightfully should be, entirely on the manic relationship between Peter and Frau Messner, the latter both repelling and fascinating the former.
A further nice touch to the surrealism of the journey is the presence in the car of some violence-prone German rowdies who've apparently made it on board with "standing room only" tickets. (The presence of seatless passengers is still a phenomenon on main corridor European trains, and which results in the nearly impossible passageway overcrowding that I noticed with some irritation on a Frankfurt-Berlin run in 1999. It makes the much maligned U.S. Amtrak look positively luxurious by comparison.)
The reason I'm not awarding more than three stars is that the ending, by which time Peter and his nemesis seem to be he only passengers left on the train (trashed beyond belief - where's the staff?), is curiously unfulfilling. Peter wanders off, perhaps made a little wiser and a better person by the experience, but I wasn't convinced that he was either, or indeed cognizant of why he should be. For me, and for Peter, Frau Messner remained too much of an enigma."
Richard B. Schwartz | Columbia, Missouri USA | 08/08/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Whenever I have reservations about an award-winning piece I question whether or not there's something wrong with me. In this case I concluded that I have little patience for something unconventional which is not entertaining. Caught on a Train is surely unconventional, but I found it to be tedious and extremely claustrophobic. The bulk of the action occurs on a crowded train, at a crowded newstand, in a crowded compartment and in a crowded dining car. In the subsidiary material on the DVD, the author informs us that the initial inspiration for the film was an unpleasant train trip which he took with his wife. The wife is eliminated from the plot here for dramatic purposes, but the unpleasantness remains. Commentators (some of whom I very much admire) like the film because it is 'different'. That is insufficient for me. None of the characters here are likeable; the setting is oppressive (not just on the crowded, dirty, noisy, smoky train, but with the omnipresent lead-gray skies across the relatively barren landscape through which the train moves); the plot is lugubrious and the themes (generational differences and unexpected commonalities) insufficient to redeem the rest of it. I love Michael Kitchen and Peggy Ashcroft and I think Waiting for Godot is profound, moving, at times funny and ultimately uplifting. Caught on a Train is Waiting for Godot without the fun and the setting for the latter, with a single leaf on a bare tree in the second act is paradisal compared with this train from hell."