Track 29 (1988)

 “Do you ever wish you were someplace else?”

Track 29 is perhaps the strangest film ever made by Nicholas Roeg. A very incompatible married couple, Doctor Henry Henry (Christopher Lloyd) and Linda (Theresa Russell) share a boring routine. He plays with his impressive train set (and it encompasses an entire room), and she stays at home–bored out of her mind. They have a perfect showplace home, and she wears jogging suits with matching headbands–anyway, you get the picture. But Henry has a nasty secret little habit he indulges in at work with Nurse Stein (Sandra Bernhardt). Henry and Linda have all the worldly trappings of a happy and contented life, but they loathe one another.

track-29Into this sick little domestic drama enters a mysterious drifter–Martin (Gary Oldman), and his presence resurrects long-buried desires and resentments. Martin claims to be Linda’s long-lost child, and he tells her “I’ve come a long, long way to find you.” But is Martin what he appears to be?

Gary Oldman really excelled in this role–he alternates between bouts of Oedipal complex and demon-child rage. Oldman shows his range as he vacillates between fury and inappropriate affection. Watching Oldman loose on the screen, I asked myself, ‘what sort of monster would we conjure up to smash all the mistakes we have made in our lives?’ It’s quite a concept, and I think Oldman does justice to the role of Linda’s Juggernaut. Roeg plays with the characters on screen, and leaves just enough doubt and just enough skepticism to ensure edge-of-your-seat-attention. Sandra Bernhardt is splendid as Nurse Stein who indulges Henry’s habit when he should be paying attention to his geriatric patients, and Christopher Lloyd was also wonderfully cast in this role. He’s at once eccentric (and believably obsessed with his mega-train set), but there’s also a nasty hostile side which aggressively exposes itself at key points throughout the film. Even the relatively minor character of Linda’s friend, Arlanda (Colleen Camp) is very well done. Linda confides to Arlanda, and Arlanda’s face expresses hunger and eagerness for dirty gossip. The confidences are made against the appropriate backdrop of Cape Fear. The flashbacks are exquisitely achieved. Close attention is mandatory for this film–clues can easily be missed. What is real–and what is the imagination?

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Filed under Cult Classics

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