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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Whole New Meaning to Underground Cinema

After almost three months of preparation and several false starts, a Dutch artist's off-beat project to turn a metro train into a cinema-on-rails has finally started rolling.


"It is very good, like a fantasy", said Yury Merkov, seated on the train Monday afternoon. "It has changed the way I look at the metro, but more important, I see Moscow in a completely new way".


Pieter Thoenes set up two television monitors in the head carriage of a Circle Line train that continuously play a videotape showing what its route would be if it was traveling above ground. This is the third and final segment in a series of metro films Thoenes calls "Metrilogy"; the two previous installments took place in Amsterdam and Berlin.


The project is at once an amusement park ride and modern art.


The film is reminiscent of a Keystone Cops movie: frenetic, fast-paced, sometimes thrilling. Between the Kievskaya and Krasnopresnenskaya stations, when the camera dives down an embankment, crosses the Moscow River, and then surfaces in front of the fast-approaching White House, passengers gasp.


Children crowd around the monitors for a good view, grasping each other for balance as the train sways to and fro. Lyusya Zakhareva, 8, jostled with other kids who crowded around the monitor Monday. Eventually she decided a perch on her mother's lap would be the best spot. When she settled in, she said, "It's good and joyful".


Her mother, Yulia Zakhareva, heard about the metro video from friends. She appreciated the show, one part in particular: "Going into the White House is great".


Thoenes made the film in five days in May. He traced the Circle Line's route on foot with a hand-held camcorder, guided all the while by his assistant Jolien van der Mee.


Although making the movie was a challenge, the biggest difficulties occurred once filming was completed. First all the video equipment was held at the Finnish-Russian border; then a crucial installation part was destroyed and a replacement had to be sent from Holland. Beyond that, there were plenty of bureaucratic snafus. Now, though, the movie is rolling, so Thoenes is happy.


"The weekend is the best, because people bring their kids, and it gets crowded", Thoenes said.


Thoenes said that he has had no problem with vandalism, and that the reaction of metro workers has meant a lot to him.


"They are very proud, they bring their families", Thoenes said as he stood on the train between Belorusskaya and Novoslobodskaya. "They see it as their project, a Moscow metro project, not just some foreigner coming in and doing crazy things".


Thoene's metro film, which will run until the end of the month, is located in the first carriage of a train going clockwise on the Circle Line, meaning it can be boarded from any station on that line. It has black-and-white posters on it that say "Metrilogy". The train leaves every 30 minutes, the time it takes to complete one revolution of the circle line.