When the film begins the train is already moving. Three, four, then five men appear at the bottom of the frame. The men walk with the train, and file behind it as it leaves. One man crosses onto the tracks. Looking up at the camera the men tip their hats, acknowledging the departure. The landscape behind the men is rubble-like: stone buildings (worn from age, the wind, war) and boulders in the distance form an embankment just behind the onlookers. As the film continues the rear of the train passes the station. The crowd, there to witness the event, swells

in the space of the frame. Men in suits, men in religious robes, young children, and women, all of them bustle outside the station as the train moves past. The clock on the façade, a stationmaster, (dust from the dirt platform). At the corner of the station, at the edge of the crowd, a man stands with a small child watching the train depart. The landscape on the right side of the frame opens, a white picket fence appears and casts a shadow shaped like a ladder onto the empty platform. The platform tapers to the earth. The film ends.

In his essay “On Certain Characteristics of Photogénie,” filmmaker Jean Epstein defines what’s photogenic as “only the mobile and personal aspects of things, beings, and souls…” He emphasizes that “mobility should be understood only in the widest sense, implying all directions perceptible to the mind.” For Epstein this includes in addition to the three main spatial directions, the perceived linear past-future direction of time. And as a result, he constructs the photogenic moment as “a space-time system in which the past-future direction also passes through the point of intersection of the three acknowledged spatial directions, at the precise moment when

it is between past and future: the present, a point in time, and instant without duration…” The photogenic quality of a “thing, being, [or] soul” depends on how it varies in space-time. One way to simplify this theory would be to say that it’s worth pointing a camera at anything that moves— physically, emotionally, or both. And yet to capture mobility with a camera (even as a binary file in digital formats) requires just that, capturing, stopping, fixing in place. Epstein, aware of this fundamental tension, characterizes this aspect of cinema as “a challenge to the logic of the universe.”

Two ideas strike me about this paradox: the challenge is ultimately a vain effort, and what the medium exposes is a state of loss. “The rapid angular succession approaches the perfect circle of impossible simultaneous action. The physiological utopia of seeing things ‘together’ is replaced by an approximation: seeing them quickly.” The promise of seeing things together is the promise (or problem) of the present: “impossible simultaneous action.” An approximation replaces the utopia. However, we still desire the illusion of movement, encouraged by impossibility. A camera, fixed to the rear of a train, leaves Jerusalem: not everything will be seen.