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Published on Jan 31, 2013
This footage of the "Arrival of a Train" is one of the most enduring images of the earliest years of cinema. The often-repeated accounts of the startled reactions to this movie from early audiences, along with the ways that such reactions were commemorated in other early movies such as "The Countryman and the Cinematograph", have made it one of the best-known of the earliest movies, and beyond that, the film in itself accomplishes its own aim very well.
The Lumières discovered very quickly how effective motion towards the camera could be, and that idea is certainly used to good effect here. The diagonal direction of the motion, necessitated by the material being filmed, gives it a distinctive character. Compared with the train, the crowd reactions here are a bit less interesting than they are in some of the other Lumière features that include crowds who know they are being filmed. A couple of them do acknowledge the camera as they go about their business.
Yet even today, the train grabs the viewer's notice, so that the crowd and other details get much less attention. That in itself shows how effectively this enduring classic was able to carry out an interesting idea.