26
Apr 04

“Trainspotting” used as metaphor for trainspotting shockah!

Do You SeePost a comment • 264 views

“Trainspotting” used as metaphor for trainspotting shockah!

I don’t know if it won any actual real awards, but The Station Agent is/was a shoo-in for the Ghost World Memorial ‘Indiest Film in the History of Indie’ Cup. Fin (a taciturn dwarf who works in a model shop) inherits a derelict railway depot in the boonies from the shop owner. When he moves there he meets i. Joe, a brash young Hispanic icecream-van man from New York (who’s running his dad’s van while the latter is ill); ii. Olivia, a nervy’n’arty middle-aged divorcee (who hates the telephone and is mourning her son’s death as a child); iii. a plump black schoolgirl exactly Fin’s height; iv. a CUTE LIBRARIAN!!! (!!!)

But actually despite this it’s very good, certainly very funny. It’s about isolated people learning to improvise a micro-community on their own terms, why you might actually choose loneliness over “getting a life”, and the problems that arise when the promise of companionship threatens the safety of solitude (so haha it’s an allegory of ILX huzzah!!)

Fin is an expert on trainlore – not least bcz it allows him a minimal social life with excellent boundaries (= his fellow trainspotters are shy to the point of social hopelessness) – but refuses to consider himself a “train chaser” (one of those um weirdos who drives along behind trains videoing them, then plays the homemovies back to fellow chasers). His deadpan reticence allows his fellow lonelyhearts to project lots of “cool outsider wisdom” onto him: he regards this is ridiculous, even borderline-offensive, but in fact (with him as the catalyst) some of the various misfits DO find a way to create a little provisional club-of-the-exiled.

Self-chosen outsiderdom is also often boring and stupid and deluded; solitude does not necessarily lead to greater wisdom than pub chat or television or the lecture hall. There’s a pretty close relationship between prejudice and yearning to be able to escape, of course – and the film’s good on this really except maybe in the one overdetermined drunk-dwarf-in-a-bar scene, where the “freak” (ie Fin, who we by now really really root for) seems to be allowed to be surrounded by a crowd of easy-target yokel-yahoos. (These too-cartoony demon-figures contrast with Joe, the secretly sensitive’n’lonely loud urban yob who is of course an excellent cook: though to be fair the bar scene does somewhat imply that it’s Fin’s drunken paranoid POV which generalises those around him into a leering ugly mob…)

Anyway I seem to be beginning to find more things wrong with it as I describe it than I noticed as I was watching it: actually I think it’s very well aware of these kinds of edgy-boho-smugness-type pitfalls and deals with them very smartly viz the ending, which is such a classic indie “we’re-indie-and-we-don’t-do-endings” ending that I burst out laughing. (ps a ‘station agent’ seems to be the US equivalent of the UK’s ‘stationmaster’) (eg another of the things i like is that this movie is a whole station goods-yard of rival metaphors shunting complicated between each other….)

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