The 4 films you have to watch before your Eurail trip

Can’t wait to go on your Eurotrip adventure and want to get yourself in the mood for Eurailing? Watch some classic films you haven’t got around to seeing yet, and enjoy good cinema as well as the prospect of your European travels.

The four films chosen below are set in four popular European destinations, which you might well be Eurailing through soon… Lucky you!

Before Sunrise (1995)

The first in American director Richard Linklater’s ‘Before’ trilogy, Before Sunrise is an unusual film: thin on plot, but full of thoughtful, wide-ranging dialogue. The opening scene takes place on the train from Budapest to Vienna, where the remainder of the film is set.

This romantic drama is hard to beat as an advert for the spontaneity of travel: Jessie, an American tourist on a Eurotrip, is heading to Vienna to catch a flight home. On the train, he meets Céline, a French university student, and succeeds in persuading her to spend an impromptu evening with him in Vienna.

Low on money, Jessie (played by Ethan Hawke) can’t afford a bed for the night. Consequently, he and Céline (played by Julie Delpy) wander around the city until they part ways the following morning; they amble beside the Donaukanal (Danube Canal), where a man writes them a poem, they go for a ride on the Wiener Riesenrad at the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt, and they revel in each other’s company.

Refusing to take the other’s numbers, they promise to meet up six months later. Continue watching the trilogy for an answer to the film’s cliff-hanger, and also for two more European destinations: Paris and rural Greece.

Linklater’s description of his trilogy as ‘the lowest grossing films to be a franchise’ downplays his and his cast’s significant achievements, in a film inspired by a similarly spontaneous evening he spent with a woman in Philadelphia.

Bicycle Thieves (1948)

Although this film does not offer as comprehensive a tour of Rome’s more famous landmarks – think Piazza Navona, the Coliseum, and the Spanish Steps – as films like the Talented Mr Ripley, it is unmissable for anyone going to Italy’s capital.

Adapted from a novel by Luigi Bartolini, Vittorio De Sica’s lauded black-and-white film gives us an insight into the difficulty of life in Rome after the Second World War. We follow Antonio Ricci in his search for a job and his desire to provide for his family. On being offered a job putting up advertising posters, he lacks one thing: a bicycle to transport him around the city.

His wife, Maria, pawns some of her dowry possessions so that the family can redeem Antonio’s bicycle from the pawn shop. Overjoyed and proud, he sets out for his first day at work. However, as the film title suggests, the day ends in disaster and his job is put in doubt.

His subsequent agonising leads him to patrol the streets, along with his son Bruno, looking for his bike and its thief. Beautifully shot and emotionally charged, The Bicycle Thieves is considered the masterpiece of Italian neorealism and, four years after is premier, was declared the best film of all time by Sight & Sound.

You might be inspired to cycle around Rome during your time there, but remember not to lose sight of your bike!

In Bruges (2008)

The cult status of Martin McDonagh’s black comedy probably means you’ve already seen it. If so, watch it again to remind yourself of Bruges’ charming canals and the events which shatter and overshadow the tranquillity of its cobbled streets.

Ken (Brendan Gleeson) and Ray (Colin Farrell), two Irish hitmen, head to the Belgian town of Bruges to lie low after a botched assassination. Things are not calm for long, as both get into trouble with local characters as well as with their boss, Harry. Cue memorable dialogue and ridiculously wanton acts of violence.

One of its most famous scenes takes place in the Belfry of Bruges. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film, but I strongly recommend that you visit it afterwards. Its history stretches back to 1240, and is almost as destructive as the film: its spire has been destroyed by fire three times. The view from the top is quite something.

The Lives of Others (2006)

Winner of the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s debut film made waves in the cinema world. Although its subject, the Stasi’s surveillance of East Berlin’s residents, is hardly uplifting, it has much to teach the visitor about life before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The Minister of Culture, Bruno Hempf, is attracted to actress Christa-Maria Sieland and therefore decides to remove his romantic rival, the playwright George Dreyman, by ordering the Stasi to spy on him. The spy, Stasi Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler, discovers the reason for his mission and tries to undermine Hempf’s efforts. The plot sweeps through state-sponsored cruelty and individual suffering.

Celebrated for its accurate depiction of the harsh realities of pre-1989 East Berlin, this film makes a good starting point for those wishing to know about the conditions beyond Checkpoint Charlie.

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