This past Oct. 14th marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of Montreal’s metro system. In celebration of one of our city’s greatest assets, the short film Metro by Nadine Gomez just became available on VOD. Although Metro originally premiered at the 2015 edition of the Montreal International Documentary Festival, it could be seen for free from Oct. 14-16th in conjunction with the landmark anniversary of Montreal’s subway.
Shot in crisp black and white, director Gomez uses this short film to give viewers a unique look behind the scenes at the inner workings of Montreal’s underground transportation system. The documentary highlights elements such as the massive architectural components occupying several of the city’s largest metro stations. The film skillfully focuses on the interplay of light and shadow as well as featuring contrasting images of crowded subway platforms alongside lingering shots of cavernous empty metro stations.
Coming in at 17 minutes, Metro provides a micro version of a day in the life of the metro system, including shots of various Société de transport de Montréal employees all working to operate and maintain one of the busiest underground transportation systems in North America. The director also highlights the vital role played by metro riders by using not only footage taken inside the individual metro cars but also head on shots of commuters waiting on the subway platform. In this way Gomez hints at the individual humanity of the metro riders while at the same time portraying them as cogs in a much larger wheel that is the entirety of the metro system.
The only drawback of presenting Metro in a black and white format is that although it emphasizes certain visual elements, it downplays others. Each station in the Montreal metro has an individual character and design scheme to it which is achieved using unique artwork and colour palettes. Artwork featured in the Berri-UQAM station, for example, is displayed on a grand scale, which is further highlighted by the use of bright colour. In contrast, the Pie-IX station reflects the city’s Olympic history while Papineau features an impressive set of murals depicting the Patriotes Rebellion (Les Patriotes de 1837–1838) which must be seen in colour to fully appreciate its true beauty and artistry.
Viewers of Metro are left with the definite impression that Montreal’s subway is about more than just the rubber-wheeled trains which travel through a subterranean network of tunnels beneath the cityscape. Indeed, Montreal’s fifty-year-old metro system is a virtual world unto itself. It not only provides residents and visitors alike with a cheap and easy way to get around the city but also serves a social function by connecting residents from various parts of the island such as Laval, Verdun, Westmount, Longueuil, Old Montreal, and NDG.