Lawrence Bridges’s Traveling by train is like a cool drink of water is, to me, a fun exploration of the feeling of travel, especially traveling with family. I believe it encapsulates that experience very accurately, having traveled a lot with my family growing up. To describe the film in as few words as possible, this is a home video with experimental editing. It starts slow with that shot in a cafe, showing how the first day is always the slowest. Then, a genius way of altering the established reality and setting us up for the style of the rest of the short: pausing the cafe into a still image and putting travel footage in the back windows. This footage can easily be taken as surreal close-ups for sake of art, but listening to the audio of that scene, I can tell that the girl behind the camera is coaching the man on what footage she’s taking, and the footage itself is a little comical as a result. This is clearly two family members taking a home video on their trip and having a good time.
Next up, we get a shot of a man playing accordion on the street of some European county (definitely taking me back to my trip to Spain!), showing us where the music we’ve been hearing came from. It was an innovative choice on the part of the filmmaker to use this footage for audio for the whole piece since it keeps us in the location it was filmed in completely. In addition, we stay in this hectic editing environment for the rest of the piece, which to me shows the whirlwind vacation we all know so well. At only about a minute long, this film is incredibly succinct. It gets its point across in only so many shots, those shots clearly being picked with a lot of thought. My only complaint is the lack of clear ending that leaves me wondering if there’s more, especially with how short it is.
My favorite bit of the film is how hands are utilized. There is a still image of a hand over a little girl’s hand on a train window, then that footage of the train window is in the outline of that hand. Later, there’s a shot of a girl putting her hand over the camera, a callback to the shot of the hand. We also, of course, get a hand holding a glass of water while a man says the name of the film, which to me means that the name of the film is from this man saying this phrase on a video from this trip. It’s endearing that this very intimate look at a family’s vacation is titled with what I assume is an inside joke between them.
Making this type of experimental film from a family trip is an original and inventive idea. I’m especially impressed with the editing, as this is a style I can’t say I’ve seen before. Utilizing the natural borders on images to juxtapose video over them adds such energy to the film as a whole. In regards to the editing, I would have loved to see a little color-correcting to give a particular vibe, but I see the meaning behind leaving the natural colors of the environment to really get that home video feel. While this piece is short, it is incredibly well-thought-out and all-in-all an enjoyable piece of media I’m thrilled to have gotten the chance to watch.
Lawrence Bridges is best known for his work in the film and literary world. His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, and The Tampa Review. He has published three volumes of poetry: Horses on Drums, Flip Days, and Brownwood. As a filmmaker, he created a series of literary documentaries for the NEA’s “Big Read” initiative, which include profiles of Ray Bradbury, Amy Tan, Tobias Wolff, and Cynthia Ozick.
Jett Thorn can be found in an Emerson College film classroom, the dance studio, or snuggled up with their cat. they have dabbled in almost every aspect of film, from directing, to writing, to editing, and now criticizing.