Made on a modest budget, but with an immodest cinematographic eye. Fiction and fact are mixed as in a dream. A dream about trains and the sinister affairs that surround them. The young filmmaker only needed one take for each scene. A sharp eye. A steady hand.
Ever since the first use of the film camera by the French Lumière Brothers, the train has been a favourite subject - as a metaphor for progress, but also as a depiction of standing still, as at the beginning of Jet Leyco’s Ex Press. The young Filipino director started filming without a screenplay and juxtaposed documentary footage of the train as it travels in fits and starts through the jungle with fragments of thoughts and dreams.
Because the passing trains are regularly pelted with rubbish and stones by inhabitants of the shanties along the railway line, the railway company started up its own police force. One of the officers, the violent ‘Colonel’ Paliparan, abruptly resigned several years ago for mysterious reasons. His two sons try to find out why.
With a mixture of traditional and guerilla filmmaking, Leyco manages to create an idiosyncratic, sometimes even musical, atmosphere from the details and rhythms of apparently everyday scenes around the Filipino train as it thunders on.
Programmer note by Gertjan Zuilhof:
This film consists of beautifully delineated, black-and-white images of trains, both at rest and in motion. Black-and-white shots of trains are always gorgeous. They remind us of the stylish era of purely mechanical transport and adventurous travel. But this film also features colour images. Also fabulously shot, but with a completely different atmosphere and a different relationship to the present. The filmmaker seems not to indicate when and what should be colour or black-and-white. It just is and it works.
The production appears feature film-like, but is nevertheless primarily a documentary. One with an unusual structure. Bounding back and forth through time, it relates the story of a brutal railway policeman who seems to symbolise more than just that one officer and more than the railway police as a whole. Metaphorically speaking, the entire country is moving, like a train, and the population suffers from institutionalised brutality.
With his youthful originality, the talented Leyco slots right into the venerable, social-realist tradition in Philipino filmmaking.