Train of Life (Train de vie)
Description: It is 1941, the year 5701 of creation, and Shlomo, the village idiot, breathlessly announces the news: The Nazis are coming, and all will be sent to the death camps. As the rabbi and the wise men of the shtetl confer on how to react, Shlomo interjects, "A fake deportation train!" The suggestion is adopted, and the preparations begin. Funds are pooled; boxcars are bought one by one, then refurbished; uniforms are made for those chosen to play Nazi soldiers; and Mordechai, the wood merchant, drills the troops that he will command. After days of frenzied work, argument, and celebration, all is ready. With Mordechai as both Moses and German commander, the train pulls out to begin its madcap race across central Europe. Filled with high suspense and narrow escapes; tense, white-knuckle confrontations; episodes of village life, political satire, surprise turns, Jewish humor, boisterous activity, and utter hilarity, this film captures the full spectrum of human character in the shtetl: the beautiful Esther; the awkward Yossi, her admirer; the frugal bookkeeper, the wise rabbi, and, above all, the crazy Shlomo, who speaks in words of prophecy and poetry. Train of Life, like director Radu Mihaileanu's earlier Betrayed (Sundance 1994), is a powerful depiction of a society gone mad and the dream of escape. A fable set inside the tragedy of the Holocaust, this moving and masterful film is both an affirmation of life and, by artful evocation, a remembrance of lives and a whole culture lost.
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