An Appreciation for The Train

Burt Lancaster as French Resistance fighter Labiche in The Train
Burt Lancaster as French Resistance fighter Labiche in The Train

As the George Clooney project Monuments Men, based on the work by Robert Edsel, finally nears its release on February 7th, it may be worth revisiting a 1964 masterpiece.

How many men should die to save a work of art? How much money should be devoted to its protection and preservation? The Train forces us to consider our answer. Set in 1944, in the final days of the war, the conflict has all but been decided, and the question raised by the film is not the simple question of whether a Monet or Braque should be worth the sacrifice of human lives, but a more complicated question. Director John Frankenheimer asks the audience to consider how many men and women should die to keep the works in France at the end of a long and deadly struggle. The film weighs the lives against innocents, against enough money to equip “ten panzer divisions”, and against the lives of French resistors. The result is one of¬†the very best anti-war films.

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