The end of the line - Page 3

Trainspotting America with James Benning's RR

The tires lying there like the death of the automobile — the death of our culture, really — and the use of oil, all of that is in play.

SFBG The general perception of RR is that the film's structure is precisely a function of the length of each train — the shot begins when the train enters the frame and ends when it leaves. But that's not exactly the case.

JB Most of the time there's an empty frame, the train enters, it leaves, and then there's a cut. I would like to have drawn that out. For me the film is very much about time and about waiting, but I didn't want waiting to become part of the film. I wanted you to realize through the absence of waiting that I had to wait.

SFBG Something else happens within RR. At least twice, maybe three times, there is an optical illusion. After the train leaves the frame what's left behind seems to vibrate.

JB It happens a lot.

SFBG Were you aware that this would occur?

JB I wasn't when I made the film, but when I started to project the work print, I was shocked. You don't need a film to get that optical illusion — you can stand in front of a waterfall, follow the water down, then turn your head. [Likewise,] your eyes will follow the train so that when it's gone, the effect remains and even kind of warps.

SFBG Most of the trains in the film are freight trains, there are maybe only one or two passenger trains.

JB There are two: one was a commuter train, one was a passenger train. The amount of commuter travel, at least on the West Coast, is minimal — you hardly ever see a train with people in it. Amtrak leases the right to use rails from the companies that operate the freight trains. I've taken most of the Amtrak train routes. They're fun ... and slow.

SFBG How long did you shoot?

JB I shot for two and a half years, probably. I had so much fun that I didn't really want to stop. I still miss it. Sometimes I go back to those same sites and wait for trains, just to have that feeling again.

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