Looted art in the cinema: “The Train”


As early as 1964, Hollywood brought a topic in the cinemas, the has actually found in recent years to enter the consciousness of a wide Public: during the Nazi era looted art.

Seven years ago, Schwabing, were seized in Munich-hundreds of Nazi-looted works of art. About a year later, a news magazine published the Story of the Gurlitt case drew worldwide circles. In February 2014, the with popular Stars from Hollywood-produced Film “Monuments Men” world premiere of play celebrated at the Berlin film. The issue of looted art had finally reached the General Public.

In this case, the issue was discussed in expert circles for a long time. In 1998, the “Washington Declaration”, in which experts from all over the world had agreed, during the national socialist era art stolen to identify plants and, if possible, to its former owners or their heirs to return.

The topic of looted art for a large audience prepared

The Film “Monuments Men” (2014) George Clooney not only played a major role, but also directed, was the artistic Disaster. How to stage the sensitive issue better, seriously the fabric apart, and nevertheless, a larger audience does not exclude, had the power of the American Director John Frankenheimer in 1964. His feature film “The Train” (dt. Title “The train”) is now to rediscover.

Labiche (Burt Lancaster) gets in his acts of sabotage in support of an old railroad man (Michel Simon)

Frankenheimer portrays the actual events-based trial of the Germans, in 1944, the art locks treasures worth many millions of Reichsmarks from the occupied Paris – with a freight train with destination in Germany. Frankenheimer, his screenwriters and his main actor, Burt Lancaster, have made from the fabric a stunningly exciting Film.

Action cinema with the claim: “The Train”

“‘The Train’ is something like the Missing Link in the genome of the Action cinema,” wrote one critic about the work: “The Film, shot in Black and White, combines the 1950s with the 1960s and 1970s. In his pace, his crashes and Action-poses” to quit, in addition, already in the Action cinema of the following decades. Right: “The Train” is extreme body cinema, especially the impressive physical presence, Burt Lancaster is responsible.

And there is a cinema, the material is battles. However, unlike the later Blockbuster-generations of Hollywood in which the Action removed, more and more of plot and story, it can be used in “The Train” still has a purpose: of illustration of a human and political drama.

In a supporting role is also played by French cinema icon Jeanne Moreau see

Paris, in August 1944, German Colonel von Waldheim (Paul Scofield, our image above) is an art lover and want paintings of inestimable value from the ends bring allies to safety. Hundreds of masterpieces by Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse and others, to be transported to Germany. The plants are located in the Paris gallery “Jeu de Paume”, where the German occupiers carried the stolen images and have kept. There, they are Packed in crates and on a freight train loaded.

Resistance double Wehrmacht

It’s a cat and mouse game begins between the German Waldheim and his French against players Paul Labiche (Burt Lancaster), an employee of the national railway authority, but also a member of the resistance. Labiche and his collaborators are trying with all available means to sabotage the robbery of art-Rail Transport. First, by delaying the departure of the goods train, and later with of them a staged accidents and attacks on the railway line.

It is also possible first of all to outwit a sophisticated deception by the Germans Instead of to the East in the direction of Germany, the train on many detours in a large circular motion through Eastern France in the French capital. Resistance and accomplices have re-mounted orientation signs, information signs and train station attacks so skillfully that the German occupiers to be deceived.

Charisma and physical presence: Hollywood Star Burt Lancaster carries the Film until the very end

The American science writer Robert M. Edsel has the spectacular Raublunst Transport to the year 1944 in a Chapter of his popular written non-fiction book “the Monuments Men – The hunt for Hitler’s stolen art” of 2009 (Dt. 2013). But Frankenheimer made the thing much better. He penetrates through the fabric, because he takes the audience on a dramatic journey, and the conflict between the Nazis and the resistance to be credible on the confrontation of two persons to be compressed.

The Film raises questions about the value of art

On the other hand, the Film poses universal questions. In the course of the experiment, the French, the train stop is shot down by the Germans, prisoners, and resistance fighters. The Film poses the question: Is the art, and it is still as valuable and important, the price of a human life value?

John Frankenheimer and his movie team has succeeded in 1964 to illuminate the issue of looted art is multi-faceted and intelligent. This was done in the framework of an exciting action film, not a bug. “The Train” is also about a half-century after its creation, a monster pack of the Film: “Hollywood at his Best”.

John Frankenheimer: The Train/The train USA/France/Italy, 1964, 133 minutes, with Burt Lancaster, Jeanne Moreau, Paul Scofield, Michel Simon, Suzanne Flon, Wolfgang Preiss, etc.; the provider “film confect” on Blu-Ray and DVD appeared.