Review: The Night Train (2020)

Orizzonti Corti Competition, 77th Venice Film festival

Erik Nilsson in Jerry Carlsson’s ‘The Night Train’ (2020). Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

Bearers and guardians of secrets, trains are refuge for those who want to be alone, and chatting opportunity for those less extroverted. And in other cases, they inspire us to do something we would otherwise deem unacceptable.

Since the first screening of the Lumière brothers short documentary L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (1895) which set the cinema audience in panic, trains served as places of dread, passion, victory, strange or funny encounters, as subjects of wild robberies and crime scenes on the big screen. Deadly viruses were catapulted into the world, and a zombie apocalypse was born. Another famous train became shelter for the chosen group of survivors in the post-apocalyptic, frozen world. We’ve seen it all, but rarely was an orange that passionately devoured on a train as in Jerry Carlsson’s short The Night Train that competes in Orizzonti Corti’s selection of the 77th Venice International Film Festival.

On the honest side, one orange made many hearts race faster on a Sarajevo-operating tram in Thanasis Neofotistos’ coming-of-age short Route 3 (2019), a film that made a successful international festival round last year. But that particular juicy fruit gave birth to passion that couldn’t be lived to its fullness in an over-crowded space with zero intimacy.

Carlsson’s script is a delightful account of a short-lived affair born on a night train between the 18-year-old Oskar (Erik Nilsson) and Ahmad (Khalil Ben Gharbia), a French boy travelling with his parents to an unknown Swedish destination. There is no knowledge about their background, except that Oskar went to Stockholm for a job interview, a tiny bit of information we are given at the very beginning of the film through his phone conversation with one of his parents – which can be concluded from the manner he speaks about it.

What is striking about the film is its smoothly built erotic tension, free of exaggerations. The explicit is left to imagination through the impact that ripe, fluid-dripping fruit used in the story leaves behind. Teenage longing for intimacy is depicted in light, innocent colours, even when the line between the fantasy and the need to explore it is over-stepped.

Erik Nilsson and Khalil Ben Gharbia in Jerry Carlsson’s ‘The Night Train’ (2020). © Marcus Dineen

Original title: Nattåget
Country: Sweden
Language: Swedish, English, French
Runtime: 15 minutes
Production: Verket Produktion (Frida Mârtensson), Sveriges Television (Helena Ingelsten), Filmpool Nord (Katja Härkönen)
Producer: Anna Viklund
Written & directed by: Jimmy Carlsson
Cinematographer: Marcus Dineen
Editing: Anton Hemgren, Jerry Carlsson
Sound Design: Manne Kjellander
Costume Design: Mia Andersson