Year: 1998
UK: Downtown Pictures
Cast: Lionel Abelanski, Michael Muller, Agathe De La Fontaine, Bruno Abraham-Kremer, Rufus, Clement Harari, Marie-Jose Nat, Constantin Barbulescu, Bebe Bercovici, Robert Borremans, Mihai Calin, Constantin Codrescu, Ovidiu Cuncea, Theodor Danetti, Daniel Decot
Director: Radu Mihaileanu
Countries: Netherlands / Belgium / France
Language: French (English subtitles)
UK Certificate: 12 for some mild sex and nudity
UK: 102 mins
UK Release Date:


Set in 1941, in a remote but lively Jewish village, the Nazis are coming and the little town is the next in line. Shlomo (Lionel Abelanski), the village dreamer, has an inspired idea: the village will fake their own deportation, building a train that will look like it's headed for the concentration camps but actually be bound for freedom. After discussion amongst the village leaders the plan takes off. First, certain village members are selected to play Nazis, polishing up their "Mein Furhers", sewing swastikas and forging false documents. Then, boxcars are bought one by one, painted and refurbished in a frenzy of hard work, high-spirited argument and a constant, boisterous interjection of life's greatest joys - singing, dancing, eating and romancing, especially of the town's most ravishing beauty, Esther (Agathe de la Fontaine).

Soon enough, the train is ready and the village is tearfully left behind. But as the journey begins, the terrain shifts and everything turns upside down. Under the nervous leadership of Mordechai, the Wood Merchant (Rufus), the villagers who are playing Nazis begin to act with terrifying authority, while the villagers playing deportees begin to stage a revolt against their own. All the while, the real Nazis threaten to halt the daring escape in its tracks. Nothing is as it seems anymore, and the world has gone mad. But will the so-called "ghost train" beat the odds and make it to the border without losing their spirit and tipping off the Nazis?

As Train of Life accelerates through harrowing confrontations and hilarious turns, the dream of survival and togetherness persists. The Paramount Classic Presentation is written and directed by Radu Mihaileanu.