Tickets (Ermanno Olmi, Abbas Kiarostami & Ken Loach, 2005)
Perhaps the most overused metaphor for life is that it is like a journey: people hop in and out, bumps and unexpected occurences happen, and lastly, there will always be an arrival notwithstanding any unexpected stoppage of that journey. Tickets does not exactly use the train ride as a metaphor for life, but simply as setting for a triptych of character examinations which seemingly sum up in an obvious suggestion that train tickets represent an accepted social divide the characters in the film will have to act or react on.
The film begins with Italian Ermanno Olmi's piece, a rather inert tale about a pharmaceutical intellectual (Carlo de Piani), who develops an infatuation for the company secretary whose hospitality and sense of care has struck the old intellectual as a rejuvination of his life's light. He struggles while writing an email of gratitude to the lovely assistant, daydreaming of candlelit dinners inside his first class coach, when a row of military men suddenly invade and with their brash rudeness, interrupt the old man's fantasies. This wakes up the old man who notices a family of refugees standing in the border between the first class coach and the lower class coach, and their milk for the baby spilt by the constant opening of the coach doors. He orders a warm milk, stands up, and delivers his milk to that family.
Once the intellectual alights the train, a couple stubbornly hops in and looks for available comfortable seats. This is the start of Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami's segment. The fat old lady (Silvana de Santi) finally gets a seat in the first class coach, after which, her companion (Filippo Trojano) coyly asks if he can go to the restroom. We are not aware of the exact relationship between the two. The younger man seems to show a distant respect towards the older woman, like a scared child to a strict mother, but the older woman seems to be too disconnected, too shrewd in her ways to the young man, hinting of something more like the young man being paid to serve her. The young man is used, abused, and finally explodes in fury, and leaves the older woman to fend for herself in her dead husband's memorial service.
Last is British filmmaker Ken Loach's segment, about a group of rowdy young football fans who are going to Rome to watch their team play the championship. A dilemma arises when one of their train tickets is stolen by the Albanian family (the same family the pharmaceutical intellectual helped by delivering a warm glass of milk), and the kids are faced with the decision of turning in the family of refugees or donating the ticket, the obvious repercussions of the decision being the refugee would either be sent to prison, or riding the train for free, respectively.
Unlike most other omnibus films, where the tying bond between the segments is a similar theme or a genre, Tickets is more of a seamless collaboration between the three auteurs in generating a full feature film that tackles human relationships within a tightly classed environment such as the European train line. The directors pass off their chair in fluid fashion, with no need for segment titles, or differences in style (the differences mostly consist of the language spoken, the depth of the segment, and of course, the quality). If one is forced to compare the three segments, the weakest would be Olmi's since it is far too inert, inactive, and the object of affection of the main character, too weakly construed.
The high point of the triptych is Kiarostami's segment, a delightfully humorous observation of a lady who is unwilling to let go of a former grandeur and dignity that is suddenly dissolved by the death of her husband, an army general. She literally forces things her way, and mostly gets away with it. Loach's segment is the typical Loach film, with an obvious heart for the working class, and a bigger heart for the oppressed. He ends the film in a jovial note, which is all good, since Tickets, wonderful celebration of the world's three truest auteurs' works, and putting them together in one feature, is pure unadulterated joy.