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.