Trans-Europ-Express (film)

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Directed byAlain Robbe-Grillet
Produced bySamy Halfon
Written byAlain Robbe-Grillet
StarringJean-Louis Trintignant
Marie-France Pisier
Nadine Verdier
Christian Barbier
Charles Millot
Daniel Emilfork
Music byMichel Fano
CinematographyWilly Kurant
Edited byBob Wade
Release date
Running time
105 minutes
CountryBelgium / France

Trans-Europ-Express is a 1966 film written and directed by Alain Robbe-Grillet and starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and Marie-France Pisier. The title refers to the Trans Europ Express, a former international rail network in Europe. Also in the cast were Nadine Verdier, Christian Barbier, Charles Millot, Catherine Robbe-Grillet, and the director.

The film has been variously described as an erotic thriller, a mystery, and a film-within-a-film.[citation needed]

Plot summary[edit]

The protagonist is Elias (Trintignant) who is on a dope-running errand from Paris to Antwerp by the train which gives the film its title. In Antwerp he is scheduled to meet an elusive contact named Father Petitjean, who he is unable to locate. In the meanwhile Elias encounters Eva (Pisier), a prostitute, and their relationship involves elements of erotic fantasy and sadomasochism. Two men claiming to be police officers interrogate Elias, and he is hassled by a gang of thugs. After arriving at his destination, Elias learns he was not actually delivering cocaine but powdered sugar as a test of his skill and loyalty.

His effectiveness now established, Elias is scheduled to make a drug shipment. However, he discovers that Eva is a police informant. He ties her to the bed frame as in their earlier encounters, then interrogates her and strangles her to death after she confesses to working with the police.

Now believing he can trust no one, Elias disappears as police launch a search for him. He attends a performance at a nightclub, where he is entranced by a woman called Eve, who strongly resembles Eva and appears naked on stage and bound in chains. Police follow Elias to the club, where they surround and shoot him.

The director appears as himself in some sequences which are inter-cut with the action in which Elias is involved. These scenes depict conversations with two passengers on the train who discuss the plot (e.g., suggesting that diamond smuggling might make a better story than drugs, given Antwerp's history in the diamond trade), debate the interpretation of events, and argue over what happened. The female passenger carries a reel-to-reel recorder, which she uses to play audio-recordings of dialogue from earlier scenes to settle their disagreements about exactly what happened.

The final scene shows that the director with the two passengers in a railway station reading a newspaper story about Eva's murder. The female passenger again insists that diamond smuggling would make a better story, and the director asserts that films adapted from the news are boring. Eva appears, embracing Elias amid the crowd.


Screenwriter Robert McKee classifies Trans-Europ-Express as a "nonplot" film—that is, a film that does not tell a story.[1]

The film was released on DVD in 2008 in Italy by Ripley's Home Video and on Blu-ray in 2014 in the US by Redemption Films.[2]


  1. ^ McKee, Robert (1997). Story: substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. New York: ReganBooks. p. 57. ISBN 0060391685.
  2. ^ "Trans-Europ Express and Successive Slidings of Pleasure Detailed". 14 January 2014. Retrieved 3 February 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gardies, André, comp. (1972) Alain Robbe-Grillet. Paris: Seghers (includes: "documents" & "points de vue", pp. 126–32, 162)

External links[edit]