Arrival of a train in La Ciotat station

The arrival of a train at La Ciotat station , or The Arrival of a train at La Ciotat , is aFrench film directed by Louis Lumière in 1895 , released in.

Contrary to popular belief, the film is not in the program of the 10 films composing the projection of , in the Indian Salon of the Grand Café , Place de l’Opéra in Paris 1 . On the other hand, it has often been said that the first viewers to see the film were frightened by the arrival of the train on the screen and even fled the room, but this claim is now considered part of the true myth that represents this film.


The film shows a train arriving at La Ciotat station , a city near Marseille . The Lumière family owned a residence in La Ciotat , which explains the choice of this station rather than another.

In the diagonal of the field, leaning on the line of flight of a railroad , travelers in Sunday clothes wait on the platform . A porter approaches the camera. At bottom, a steam locomotive appears, its image grows. Slowing down, it disappears to our eyes from the left. The cars stop. Some travelers are coming down, others are getting ready to go up or lingering on the platform, the curious people are looking through the windows of the cars, some of them are noticing the camera and are staring at it.

Technical sheet

  • Title: The arrival of a train in La Ciotat station
  • Director: Louis Lumière
  • Production: Société Lumière
  • Photography: Louis Lumière
  • Country of origin: France
  • Format: 35 mm double round hole punching Light by photogram, black and white
  • Duration: 50 seconds
  • Release date :
    •  France :


In 2001, Baudime Jam composed an original score for the live accompaniment of this short film. It was created and recorded by the Prima Vista Quartet .

Analysis of the film

Tradition has it that during the screening, the image of a train heading towards him terrified the audience, screaming and rushing to the back of the room or even outside. The journalist Hellmuth Karasek reports in Der Spiegel : “This short film has had a particularly lasting impact; yes, it caused fear, terror, and even panic … ” .

Louis Lumière, a talented photographer, has positioned his camera to enhance the spectacular side of a train station entrance. It could have, poorer, filmed on the side, laterally, at 90 ° of the way (this is what Georges Mélièschose in 1904 , in The Journey through the impossible ). But he preferred, by experience of photographer, to use the diagonal of the field and the depth of field (he was the first one to do it), an experience that he renews for other subjects ( The ostrich walk for example), and retain the English and American filmmakers 2 .

Some historians have thought this film 50 seconds of which there are several versions (due to premature wear of the original negative used for making copies) contains (by itself) an anthology of different framings of cinema plan together , American plan, closeup , close-up , and even a very close-up. But it should be noted that this astonishing variety stems from a combination of circumstances and not from an aesthetic research wanted by Louis Lumière. Travelers coming down from the train approach by curiosity this strange camera whose operator – well known people of La Ciotat – activates a crank. They pass in front of the lensand necessarily modify the variety of frames. However, we must recognize that this view is rich in emotions, despite its unintentional character, because it is, without knowing it, forerunner of the subjective plan , such as the English George Albert Smith will discover the principle in 1900 , with his movie The Loupe of Grandma 3 .

Subsequent versions of the film and tributes

  • In May 1935 , the Lumière brothers presented themselves a new stereoscopic version of this film with the anaglyphic process , as part of the annual meeting of the Academy of Sciences .
  • In 1995 , Patrice Leconte made a parody remake of Louis Lumière’s film. For the film Lumière et Compagnie , he returns, armed with an authentic vintage camera as the film imposes, in La Ciotat station. A hundred years later, the only train that appears is a TGV crosses the screen, like a projectile.
  • In 2005 , composer Baudime Jam composed an original score for the live accompaniment of this film.
  • In 2010 , Philippe Starck uses a film image to design the entrance to the digital cinema hall of the Parisian palace Le Royal Monceau , “The Cinema of Lights”.

Notes and references

  1. ↑ The first paid public session , on the site of the Institut Lumière . [ archive ]
  2. ↑ Marie-France Briselance and Jean-Claude Morin , film grammar , Paris, New World ,, 588 p. ( ISBN  978-2-84736-458-3 ) , p.  101-102
  3. ↑ Briselance and Morin 2010 , p.  65-66

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