A Remake Chronicles Extra by Adam-Troy Castro
Yesterday’s film: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, French saga of young woman who, though not Jewish, claims to have been target of an anti-semitic assault, complete with reverse swastikas drawn on her skin.
Almost half the film is over by the time she does this. It is the act of an empty idiot, and that half of the film is spent establishing that she is one.
She is about 20 years old, jobless, living with her mother, and though attractive, a completely empty slate. She has no skills, no friends, no plans, and no interests beyond long hours of rollerblading (with the music playing through headphones insulating her from any direct interaction with the world). A young wrestler who seduces her, and gets her to fall in love with him, describes her at the end of the movie as “the most submissive girl I’ve ever met,” and it’s an accurate description: she has never really bothered to build herself a personality. The one job interview she really goes on — which is arranged for her by her mother — is excruciating in that her resume says nothing and there is nothing at all in her demeanor or in her personality that would overcome it. The one job she gets, through that wrestler boyfriend, is so fishy and so clearly a cover for a criminal enterprise that anybody of intelligence would ask further questions, but that would require her to engage with life. Throughout, she lies compulsively, over small things, not out of self-aggrandizement, but because it is only by lying that she even has anything to say.
Under such a circumstance, reacting to heartbreak by giving herself shallow cuts with a knife, and scrawling reverse swastikas on her flesh, claiming that a bunch of neo-nazis did it and enjoying the sympathy and attention she gets, makes just about as much sense as anything else.
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN cannot really be a great film, in part because the main character is such an empty shell, and is in no way changed by anything she experiences. It’s only a tragedy for people who know her, and for those whose genuine experiences are diminished by her lies.