A Ride On The Wild Side

On the Dacia Express - Micheal Schindegger’s documentary about interconnections between countries and cultures

Filmmaker Michael Schindegger’s multicultural personnages play key roles in the dialogues as the train passes through Vienna, Budapest & Bucharest | Photos: Filmakademie Wien

Dacia Express

Filmmaker Michael Schindegger’s multicultural personnages play key roles in the dialogues as the train passes through Vienna, Budapest & Bucharest | Photos: Filmakademie Wien

In the compartments of the Dacia Express train to Bucharest, travelers mingle, people of different ages and origins chatting with each other as Michael Schindegger watches with his camera. In the 55-minute documentary, many tales are told: Romanians returning home after being cheated by their employer; a Canadian tourist who is traveling across Europe; a young American woman who is visiting relatives in Romania; a young Moldovan man who is returning home following a job interview in Vienna, a place and a people he doesn’t like.

A hit of last year’s Viennale Film Festival and recently featured at the 2009 Diagonale Festival in Graz, Dacia Express is a montage of stories that reveals misconceptions and prejudices, and allows insight into both political and social issues, as well as the ever increasing mobility and interconnections between countries and cultures. With this great cross-section on one journey, the documentary also shows what is common to the human experience – that people are flattered by attention, want to talk, laugh, connect, enjoy the moment and look to the future.

Filmed with a small hand-held camera, Schindegger was able to capture the intimacies of conversation and the ersatz domesticity of couchette scenes, while capturing the ever-changing positions and interactions. “This way,” the filmmaker commented in his notes on the film, “you don’t have the feeling of being an artificial or hidden observer, but yourself a part of the ride and of the train itself.”

Schindegger artfully captures the experience and rituals of a long train journey – the changing landscape, scenery and light across the day and night, reflections through the windows, passengers embarking and disembarking, passport controls, beds made up for the night with pristine white sheets, and people stretched out asleep. With hours on their hands, people are willing to chat, sharing stories and personal philosophies. Camaraderie unfolds over bottles of beer (one man is able to take off the bottle top using his teeth) and two late middle-aged ladies muse on the challenges of the German language and how men’s and women’s roles have changed: “My son knows how to change diapers,” she exclaims in amazement. “My husband never changed a single one!”

Dacia TrainIn another compartment, a young Romanian man chats on his cellphone to his girlfriend, making plans for his return. He confides to the camera that his father has been married three times and that like him, he also changes his women. A young Moldovan man sharing a compartment with an American and a Canadian tells them that for him America and Canada are the same place. The Canadian jokingly responds and says that only the McDonalds menus are the same and counters that for others, Moldova and Romania are the same.

As the train rattles along, people share experiences of survival, of having had to start over again, of endurance and pride, some competing to talk and be listened to. In a final vignette, a Romanian woman shares a story of how she and her husband moved to Austria to give her daughter a better life, only to have her daughter fall in love with an Italian and move to Italy, a world far away that speaks a language she didn’t know. “That’s life,” the woman says.


Dacia Express, A 2008, 55 min. OmU

Michael Schindegger, director


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