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‘La Femme et le TGV’ explores loneliness and human connections

Movie poster for the Oscar nominated live action short
Movie poster for the Oscar nominated live action short "La Femme et le TGV" starring Jane Birkin.
Official TGV movie poster

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The Oscars are Sunday February 26th, and while most of the movie loving world is looking forward to seeing what films and performers get the big prizes, A Martínez will be paying close attention to the short stuff.

The live action shorts.

It's a category we here at Take Two have been fascinated with for a long time. The big reason why the shorts are so enchanting is due to its restraints. They can not be longer than forty minutes, credits included.

This week, we'll be talking to all the live action short Oscar nominees. Monday, we start with the story of a woman and a train.

"La Femme et le TGV" or "The Railroad Lady" stars Brit Jane Birkin, who (fun fact) was the inspiration for the famous Hermes Birkin bag.

In the short film, she plays Elise, a lonely woman who, twice a day-everyday, waves to a fast-passing TGV train and develops a bond with someone on board.

Timo von Gunten wrote and directed the film, which had roots in reality:

"It was a newspaper article, because it's a true story and after I read the article I just found it so intriguing that I couldn't stop thinking about it. So, I googled the name of the woman and I eventually found her phone number. I called her up and I told her, 'Ma'am, I want to make a movie about your life, this is such an amazing story you've got here.' I managed to convince her to invite me to her place and she told me everything about it. About the letters flying out of the TGV, her writing back, throwing cheese out of the TGV, her sending back chocolates...

Most of it is real. There's a little bit of imagination too, as it needs for a fictional film but it is definitely inspired by these true events."

So why did she do this? Why was she waving at the train twice a day?

"It all started with her kids basically. Especially with her son because as a kid he was fascinated by these high speed trains passing by so, they began this ritual of getting up in the morning and waving at these trains with the Swiss flag. But then the son moved out and it just became a part of her life that she continued doing it..."

What do you think it is about this story that makes it so captivating? 

"I think it is a story about connecting with people and her challenge of being slowly pushed aside in society. How to deal with loneliness as well and in this, I sometimes call it a romantic bubble she's creating. She finds herself integrated again with the connection she has with that train driver and I think its really about overcoming that loneliness and at the end even breaking out of that bubble she created herself when she realizes that this train driver is actually impossible to have a relationship with him because he already has a wife. Spoiler alert, sorry."

To listen to the full segment, click the blue play button above.