TICKETS is an odd sort of film and, sadly, admirable rather than enjoyable. The concept is that three directors who have formidable reputations in making socially and politically aware movies (Ermanno Olmi, Abbas Kiarostami and Ken Loach) should create a film that focuses on the relationhips between various passengers on an Italian train. The movie is not split into three formal sections but it is possible to detect the shift in which director is handling the story as the focus moves to different sets of characters.
In the first section, an old man sits in a first class compartment musing on his love for his younger secretary. This being Italy, first-class is luxurious, with hot pasta served by suited waiters. Through the glass sliding door, the first-class passengers can see third-class passengers cramped in the corridor – in particular, a family if Albanian illegal immigrants with a young child. When a brusque guard spills the baby’s milk, the first-class passengers look on, but do nothing to help. One of the attendants mops up the milk – clearing up the mess – but that is all. Finally, the old man orders the waitor to bring him some warm milk in a glass and then, under the gaze of the astonished first-class passengers, takes it to the young mother.
I have gone into the detail of the narrative of this segment because it sums up the feel of the rest of the film very nicely. Instead of an over-arching narrative we have little situations, much like in a novella, in which the interaction of people of various social classes and races is highlighted. Moreover, while each segment plays as a nice character study or tragi-comedy of manners, they can also be read as political allegories. In the case of the first segment, we see the inaction of rich Western nations in the face of deprivation in Africa or even New Orleans. They do nothing when the drama is unfolding, but pride themselves of mopping up the mess. In each segment there is some hope – some small gesture of reconciliation that can be made. But the barriers created by the class of ticket you hold are never entirely removed.
As a concept, this film is intelligent and timely, and in its execution it is elegant and thought-provoking. However, I found TICKETS to be rather a sterile viewing experience, and a film that I admired rather than enjoyed.
TICKETS premiered at Berlin 2005 and went on limited release in the UK in December 2005. I do not know of a release date for the US, France, Germany or Austria. It is now available on Region 2 DVD.