Night on the Galactic Railroad – Review
The art-style of this movie is just amazing and makes it one of these timeless pieces that can be enjoyed even years after it was made.
Night on the Galactic Railroad is one of these anime-classics everybody should have seen who likes good anime. Giovanni is a cat-kid who can talk and is basically just like a human but with different looks who explores the limits of the universe which are not sci-fi-related in this case. This movie is one of the few fantastic tales as far as animes are concerned that shows imagination and creativity all the way without seeming too experimental.
Running Time: 107 minutes
Synopsis:On the night of a festival, Giovanni embarks on a train that takes him across the Milky Way. Joining him in this trip is his friend Campanella. Together they meet peculiar passengers as they travel to an uncertain destination.
Night on the Galactic Railroad is just one of these movies that you have to love as critique, it’s something like Tree of Life with Brad Pitt: Nice visuals, seemingly deep story with a lot of allegories – and it all ends with you asking yourself what the hell just happened in this movie. Let’s be honest, it’s not a very educational movie (with which I mean something resembling a German “Bildungsroman”). It’s weird fantasy and concentrates more on its fantastical aspects than psychological growth. But it’s easy to love because it is deep, all the more because it appears to be simple on the surface despite that.
So basically it’s about this absent-minded boy called Giovanni who sees dead people. Yes, like The Sixth Sense – only without any red balloons or other questionable hints. But he doesn’t meet them in his real life, instead on the night of a special festival he decides to get milk for his mother but the elderly woman there just asks him to not forget his ticket for the train and remarks that he’s waiting for the train. Yeah, always a bad sign when everyone else but the main-character knows what the whole shit is about, it’s called “being left in the dark” or “not in the loop” or… whatever. Anyway so by leaving he falls asleep on a hill and is then woken up by a train coming from the sky. He then boards this weird train and now his journey to the end of the universe begins but it doesn’t involve aliens. Instead it’s a journey to show that there is a god and some other stuff you will keep wondering about for some time. Like the part where he talks with dead people from the Titanic (since it’s not 3-D you can doubt it to have any link to the Cameron-movie). Or that dead people end up in a black hole.
One thing that helps this movie is Giovanni himself because his character is so silent and so passive much of the movie’s plot happens without him doing much. Sure, he has the usual childish curiosity and goes about exploring some places and people together with Campanella (his best friend). But it’s the situation that lets Giovanni and Campanella mostly become something like an audience to what happens around them, they just look out from their places in the train and see… stuff.
Whoever was driving that train didn’t really look where he was going with it…
And seeing stuff means that the movie has a strangely episodic nature or perhaps one should call it chapter-like. There is only sometimes a kind of transition between those chapters that links them obviously or tells us how much time has passed but it’s never destroying the mood. The setting was a quite interesting choice in that regard because of how the train the characters always stay in the same place giving each chapter a common ground to begin but because it’s a train the setting is moving at the same time. Since it’s hard to judge how much time passes by it gives the whole plot a timeless feeling and one wouldn’t be surprised if the voyage would never end.
But it does end and the ending does beg the question what the story in this case is and yeah, still think it’s about Giovanni seeing dead people. It’s unbelievable how much death is part of the setting when Giovanni has an ill mother, a missing father and a dead friend. He also meets dead people from the Titanic, archaeologists investigating the skeleton of a dinosaur (who is quite dead, skeletons usually are) and of course sees the entrance to heaven (but also the “black hole in the sky”, where the dead people go). There is indeed a very strong Christian flair but it wasn’t in the way of telling the audience “Come on, God does exist, believe me!”. It showed rather what the existence of God means for the beyond and the places and people do refer to it but not in any obvious “That’s all there is to it”-way. It’s also the general direction this movie takes with all its allegories and metaphors as everything has a great room left for interpretation but still is simple enough in its presentation to not turn away the audience by confusing them.
With a dialogue-style that makes the protagonists rather listeners to side-characters than acting plot-pushers most of the time, the mood is very “silent” and “calm” which also explains why one has this timeless feeling watching this movie. The art-style is also very distinct and were it not for the people from the Titanic which have the typical 90s anime-style the rest is so weird and fantastic that it isn’t really bound to any time and shows what really great animation should be about.
Heaven is a place bother for humans AND cat-people as will every good theologian will tell you…
Night on the Galactic Railroad is a very pondering episodic tale about death and friendship but it doesn’t have the hardships of complexity but rather a very obscure simplicity that makes it possible to enjoy the movie even without understanding every last bit of it. The art-style in this movie is also just that phenomenal that it deserves the description “timeless” and alone for that one should watch the movie.