“We'll Meet Again”
As with any considered analysis, it’s seems valuable to first acknowledge the position of the field one aims to give insight into. The same is also true when evaluating how effective a company’s piece of brand film might be when taken against the societal and economic backdrop in which it operates. In other words, what message are they trying to express, and why now?
It’s no great secret that it has been somewhat of difficult time of late for businesses associated with, and dependant on, rail travel in the U.K. Aside from the apparently now shrinking shadow of a pandemic past, these difficulties come from a myriad of reasons that we need not revisit here. Relevant for us, however, is that it is often during such periods that a company can either flounder or flourish when expressing its core values. For Network Rail, the latter is certainly the case here.
A journey is in many ways like a good story told, and this 3-minutes-plus offering sees Network Rail vividly recapture our collective memory of a time where British rail was vital in securing advantages of supply, personal safety, and military cohesion during WW2. This docu-style, single cam piece intersperses archive footage with historian testimony against an orchestral soundscape indicative of dramatic edge. Emotive diary readings of those dependent on the service in the most difficult of times compliment these additions, resonating deeply with how important a piece of our national identity this infrastructure was, and remains. A particular highlight is the filmmaker’s technique of masking out foregrounds from backgrounds of 2-dimensional photographs then tracking them across the screen, giving an eerily fluid and filmic quality.
Much of the same track that customers travel on today follow the same course as those children evacuated from cities during the blitz, while vast sections of line were commandeered to transport men and munitions to staging areas. The purpose of relaying such events to audiences is two-fold: first, a reminder of the inherent power in remaining connected. Second, that nostalgia for past success is a powerful tool in reinforcing society’s collective benefit. This piece constructively pressures audiences to ruminate on the price we would be willing to pay to secure our emotional and physical connectivity.
The Railway At War is a compelling snapshot into the bygone days of a British organ of infrastructure, nimbly asking questions of where we would be without it, as we look ahead to where we’re going. A truly moving history.