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Pacific 231 (1949)

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An engine moves from the roundhouse to a track where it couples with several passenger cars. At 2:10 in the afternoon, it starts a trip out of the station through the countryside to its ... See full summary »


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Title: Pacific 231 (1949)

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An engine moves from the roundhouse to a track where it couples with several passenger cars. At 2:10 in the afternoon, it starts a trip out of the station through the countryside to its destination. The film consists of a montage of shots, some close up, of the engine and its gears and wheels. With the accompanying ambient sounds and an orchestral score, the emphasis is on the engine's power and speed. Parallel lines of multiple tracks, telephone wires, and trees confirm a careful composition. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Short | Music





Release Date:

September 1949 (France)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


When the music first starts, the film shows the reverser lever being moved upward from neutral. However, the up position indicates reverse, as all the shots of the train going forward show the lever in the down position. See more »

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User Reviews

A railway symphony
13 December 2008 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

After watching so many of those Soviet-style "symphonies," I guess I must be sick of them. Dziga Vertov, one of the most prominent advocates of the montage, was set on ultimately abolishing all non-documentary styles of film-making. Thankfully, this goal never came to pass, for, though I fervently admire 'The Man with the Movie Camera (1929),' I can't imagine having to enjoy it every single day. Technically speaking, there absolutely nothing wrong Jean Mitry's 'Pacific 321 (1949).' It features some striking and creative photography of a moving locomotive, and is edited rhythmically to complement Arthur Honegger's classical composition of the same name, which is itself often interpreted as representing the journey of a steam locomotive. All this is accomplished with genuine skill, to create appropriate visuals that precisely match the tempo of the music (which, by the way, is quite an excellent classical piece).

The only problem – and it pains me to say this about a film into which obvious effort have been poured – is that I found 'Pacific 231' to be markedly uninteresting, and I was simply waiting for it to finish. The first three minutes are particularly tiresome, as we watch a locomotive prepare for its journey, the soundtrack featuring only the ordinary background sounds of a railway station. Once Honegger's musical piece starts up, the rhythm begins to speed up, and the film becomes much more interesting. As the music starts speeding up, so too does the train, and Mitry correspondingly increases the tempo of his editing. There are some inventive shots of the working machinery, such as driving wheels and running gear, as the train darts forward at great speed. Fans of experimental cinema will probably enjoy this 10-minute short, and, in another mood, I might have enjoyed it, as well.

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