Shot in a conversational style reminiscent of Richard Linklater, this French ‘docu-fiction’ follows various characters as they pass through the busiest train station in Europe, Paris’s Gare du Nord. We hear their worries, their dreams, their philosophies and life stories. The station is almost a character in itself: its symmetrical lines and bright lights look striking on camera, and the ‘non-place’ setting makes it ideal for urban observation.
There are many reasons why ‘Gare du Nord’ shouldn’t work. The unlikely central courtship between dishevelled doctoral student Ismaël (Reda Kateb) and sophisticated history professor Mathilde (Nicole Garcia) is improbable. The film addresses almost every issue in contemporary French society: unemployment, crime, bureaucracy, surveillance, consumerism, drug dealing, immigration, along with universal concerns such as illness, death and the supernatural. It almost loses its way in the middle. And yet, somehow, it remains compelling viewing.
Vitally, rather than trying to solve the issues it raises, the film is more interested in how they affect everyday lives: a scene in which an overworked estate agent waves goodbye to her family is, like much of the film, understated yet moving.
Cast and crew