1hr 45mins
Dir: Philip Saville
Starring: Christian Bale and Emily Watson

When his friend returns from Paris after ten years, a calm advertising executive begins to question his life

This drama is based on the 1980 novel of the same name by Julian Barnes. As its title suggests this film has the Metropolitan Railway very much as a backdrop to the action, despite part of it being filmed in Paris. Amersham station was used for some scenes, particularly a flashback sequence set in the 1960s for which vintage Metropolitan-Vickers-built Metropolitan Railway electric locomotive No.12 Sarah Siddons was used with 4-TC stock and a Mk.1 BSK. There is a low-level run-by shot of the train that is repeated a little later on, and several scenes filmed inside the TC’s. In one scene, Amersham plays the part of the fictional ‘Mortimer Park’. The film producers seemed unusually interested in providing accurate history for the film, the name of which refers to the marketing name coined in 1915 to promote the Metropolitan Railway’s commuter belt, the very area in which part of the film was shot. The word Metro–Land (originally with a hyphen) was used as an advertising slogan adopted by the Metropolitan Railway. It was designed to encourage travelers like the young John Betjeman to spend their leisure hours in the area served by the railway. An unlikely alliance between the advertising slogan and the future poet laureate ensured that Metroland came to symbolise the suburbs that sprang up in the first half of the twentieth century along the lines of the Metropolitan Railway, to accommodate the desires of middle-class commuters to own a house with a garden. An interesting moment in the film involves Christian Bale meeting a retired commuter who, during their conversation together, gives an accurate potted history of the Metropolitan and Great Central Railways. This makes for a refreshing change when one considers that this is a feature film and not a documentary. The same commuter, weary after 42 years of making the same journey, states that “Metroland was just a name invented to make the estate agents happy. It doesn’t matter where you go, Metroland is not a place, it’s a state of mind”. For contemporary scenes, the film-makers used ‘A60/62’ type stock for lineside run-bys on Metropolitan Line services but most consist of just wheels and underframe only though there is one good night-time run-by. There are in addition some very unusual rolling images taken from a camera mounted on the front of a train and placed just above the centre 4th rail. Although the film is rather average, the railway scenes are truly refreshing.

Plenty of these unusual shots appear at the beginning of the film but let’s not be to alarmed. The centre 4th rail is a negative return and thus not live.
Sarah Siddons in all her finery. Built like a battleship by Metropolitan-Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness in 1923, Sarah Siddons was one of 20 such locos delivered to the ‘Met’. The 16 that remained in service after 1954 were all withdrawn in 1962 and No.12 is the last operational survivor.
Christian Bale takes photographs of Sarah Siddons at Amersham. The only slight anomaly to the historical detail of the film is the use of this loco in a scene supposedly set in 1963. No.12 and all her remaining sisters were withdrawn from service in 1962.
I had to include this most unusual, and hugely gratifying shot, of Christian Bale doing what every rail enthusiast does in taking a photo of the locomotive’s nameplate.
This shot shows No.12 at a stand at Amersham and the vehicle immediately behind the loco is Mk.1 BSK No.35011 in use as a brake force runner
This is the best of the low level run-bys in the film that feature the much-admired A60/62 stock, the stalwarts of Metropolitan Line services for 50 years. Because of their sphere of operation they were built to ‘main line’ standards and were the only London Underground stock to have luggage racks, umbrella hooks, and separate power and brake controllers as standard. They also had big bouncy seats!
Towards the end of the film we get this good night shot of a passing A stock train
In another shot at night, Emily Watson and Christian Bale leave Amersham station and pass beneath the station’s lovely illuminated roundel.