Barcelona en tranvía (1908)
Director: Ricardo de Baños
Films like Ricardo de Baños’ Barcelona en tranvía are the closest we’ll get to time travel, and accompanied by the right choice of music, this film can provoke a sense of nostalgia for a place and time that we’ve never known.
Barcelona en tranvía takes us on a tour by tram of the streets of Barcelona in 1908. I don’t know whether the tram was travelling slower than normal to allow the camera to capture as much detail as possible as it trundled through the sunny city’s streets, but it was travelling slow enough for cyclists to overtake it. Some of them zig-zag in front of the tram, and cast excited glances over their shoulder (the camera was clearly visible to the people in the street).
It’s surprising – and strangely touching – how many of the people we see seem to take genuine pleasure at the sight of the camera. Many of them raise their hats and wave cheerfully. Even back then, the land of the siesta seemed to have a more relaxed pace of life than cities in America or Britain.
Those few brief moments are long gone now, and all the people are dead – but, thanks to cinema, we can still travel back to visit them every now and then…
(Reviewed 26th November 2009)