L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat (The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (US) and The Arrival of the Mail Train) is an 1895 French short black-and-white silent documentary film directed and produced by Auguste and Louis Lumière. It was first screened on December 28 1895 in Paris, France, and was shown to a paying audience January 6 1896.


This 50-second silent film shows the entry of a steam locomotive into a train station in the French coastal town of La Ciotat. Like most of the early Lumière films, L'arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat consists of a single, unedited view illustrating an aspect of everyday life.


This 50-second-movie was filmed in La Ciotat, Bouches-du-Rhône, France. It was filmed by means of the Cinématographe, an all-in-one camera, which also serves as a film projector and developer. As with all early Lumière movies, this film was made in a 35 mm format with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1.[1]

Contemporary reactionEdit

The film is associated with an urban legend well known in the world of cinema. The story goes that when the film was first shown, the audience was so overwhelmed by the moving image of a life-sized train coming directly at them that people screamed and ran to the back of the room. Hellmuth Karasek in the German magazine Der Spiegel wrote that the film "had a particularly lasting impact; yes, it caused fear, terror, even panic." This anecdote was debunked by film scholar and historian Martin Loiperdinger in his essay, "Lumiere's Arrival of the Train: Cinema's Founding Myth".[2] Whether or not it actually happened, the film undoubtedly astonished people in the audience who were unaccustomed to the amazingly realistic illusions created by moving pictures. The Lumière brothers clearly knew that the effect would be dramatic if they placed the camera on the platform very close to the arriving train. The train arrives from a distant point and bears down on the viewer, finally cutting through the lower edge of the screen.

In Les Lumière, Bernard Chardère quotes French scientist Henri de Parville who attended the screening of December 28 1895:

The animated photographs are small marvels. ...All is incredibly real. What a power of illusion! ...The streetcars, the carriages are moving towards the audience. A carriage was galloping in our direction. One of my neighbors was so much captivated that she sprung to her feet... and waited until the car disappeared before she sat down again.[3]

Current statusEdit

Given its age, this short film is available to freely download from the Internet. It has also featured in a number of film collections including Landmarks of Early Film, Volume 1.[4]

Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (The Lumière Brothers, 1895)

Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (The Lumière Brothers, 1895)


  1. Technical Specifications. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2007-03-27.
  2. The Moving Image: Volume 4, Number 1, Spring 2004, pp. 89-118)
  3. «Les photographies animées sont de petites merveilles. [...] C'est d'une vérité inimaginable. Puissance de l'illusion! [...] Les tramways, les voitures circulaient, avançaient dans la direction des spectateurs. Une tapissière arrivait sur nous au galop de son cheval. Une de mes voisines était si bien sous le charme qu'elle se leva d'un bond... et ne se rassit que lorsque la voiture tourna et disparut.» Henri de Parville, in: Les Annales, April 28 1896, quoted by: Chardère, B.; Borgé, G. and M. (1985). Les Lumière, Paris: Bibliothèque des Arts. ISBN 2-85047-068-6. p.99. (Language: French)
  4. DVD. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2007-03-27.

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