The huge central train station in Antwerp, constructed by the Bruges architect Louis Delacenserie and completed in 1905, forms the subject of a virtuoso meditation in W.G. Sebald’s final novel Austerlitz (2001). Taking up where Sebald leaves off, Peter Krüger’s poetic documentary guides us into the station’s vast spaces, allowing us to visualise in close-up, and with extended analysis, what Sebald so brilliantly writes about.
The filmmaker secured the close co-operation of the railway authorities (who were restoring the building as the film was being made) and the city council, allowing him access to rooms and perspectives never normally seen by the public. These permissions also allow us to see the station empty, deserted by its usual crowds of passengers – a rare privilege.
Following Sebald’s trail, Krüger finds himself in search of the ghosts of Belgian’s colonial past – a dark chapter of the country’s history, which is rarely accounted for. The approach is subtle and poetic however. Essentially the film is a homage to the dream of architecture: to the grandeur of a fin-de-siècle town planning which, in its public buildings, prized fantasy, ornament and ambition beyond everything.
Peter Krüger is active as a writer, director and producer. He obtained an MA in Philosophy at the University of Leuven in 1993 and has completed courses of the MEDIA Programme and master classes in cinematography and opera-direction. In 1993 Peter co-founded Inti Films, an independent production company which focuses on the production of creative documentaries. Peter is also active as a member of the selection committee of the Flemish Film Fund. Besides his documentary work (among others Nazareth, Poets of Mongolia and The Eclipse of Saint-Gillis) Krüger has been teaching documentary at the film school in Brussels and has conducted guest seminars on film direction and production.