by Carlo D'Ursi
- If films are a journey, then Sud Express is the fifth essence of this concept
The adventure of producing Sud Express [+see also:
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interview: Chema de la Peña & Gabriel …
interview: José Luís Carvalhosa
film profile] has been a long one, just like the route of this train. Five years ago Artimaña Producciones started a project whose genre was hard to define. The most frequently asked question was: is it a documentary or a fiction?
Well, the question has remained unanswered for years. Sud Express is one of those kind of films which are becoming more and more successful in Europe. Some call them a "docufiction", others see it as a radicalization of the concept of fictional reality, as if Dogma and documentary came together to generate a new genre.
Far from the Dogma's poor aesthetics, far from the documentary's cold narration, and far from the dramatic structure of fiction, Sud Express is one and a half hour of surprises crossing the screen.
Actually the project of Sud Express could have been conceived by an art-house director, far removed from the mainstream market. But cinema is as inexact as life itself, and it happens that the film was shot by Chema de la Peña and Gabriel Velázquez, two talented filmmakers, capable of shooting art-house-driven documentaries (From Salamanca to nowhere), and also capable of reinventing themselves afterwards in commercial-oriented comedies (Isi-Disi).
The story, which begins in Lisbon, quickly takes us to Paris, and suddenly shows us the route of a mythical train (the Sud Express) on a map of Europe, as if it was a documentary.
Sud Express is a train linking Lisbon and Paris, through the north of Spain, entering France via Irún. It is a long route, slow but safe, where travellers from all over the world leave their trace.
Sud Express doesn't have one single personality but several ones, just like the train's passengers, that change according to the seasons, origins and personal convictions. In line with that, the film tells different stories: the immigrant from a former Portuguese colony trying to make his fortune in Europe, the Moroccan living in Spain and trying to save money to marry his French girlfriend, the Portuguese woman emigrated to France meeting her first love in Irún, the Spanish pals who want to change the route of the train, and the Portuguese brothers who have a seat in the same café for 28 years watching the same train passing. Some of them project their dreams in the train and some other suffer in its seats the failure of their illusions.
As it so often happens in this world, the secrets of life are found in the simple things: only a train, a track and a loud thumping break the silence of the land, where this vessel of dreams and traditions sails by. Despite some technical failures which will be visible to the audience, Sud Express seems a mature project, conceived and produced by the heart and the mind, an extremely interesting mingle.
Worth mentioning is the meticulous done photography, which has surrealist tones to it. Its spectrum of colours changes according to the coldness or warmth of heart of the characters which live their personal dramas in and around the magic train.
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