When Mason addresses the residents of the tail end of the train, she makes a few curious hand motions when speaking of the Eternal Engine. At the time, they look almost like odd subconscious tics.

It is my understanding from later revelations that

the motions she performs are the same or similar to those that the children have to make as parts of the Eternal Engine.

Why would Mason be making these motions?


aintitcool.com interview with the director Bong Joon-ho

Quint: She [Mason] seems like a survivor. It's clear she'll do anything to get through the revolt, but I noticed you gave her that hand motion during the “everything and everyone in their place” speech that is mirrored at the end. I could be wrong, but I thought that implied she may have worked her way into her current position.

Bong Joon-ho: That's actually a good observation. I talked to Tilda about her character and I thought when she boarded the train she was probably in a lower class, but at some point caught the eye of Wilford and she climbed up into the Minister post. Maybe she was a cleaning lady when she first got on.

Google reveals a fair amount of people with theories about the hand gestures, in various reviews and discussions.

  • This is an interesting idea, though it sort of defies the whole repeated mantra of everyone being in their place and staying there. – phantom42 Dec 1 '14 at 20:42
  • @phantom42 Could that be intentional? A little incongruity to underscore a farce? – jpmc26 Dec 1 '14 at 23:52

As we see later in the classroom scene, glorifying the Engine has become a religion of it's own. A cultish experience that Wilford has probably encouraged if not outright invented. Like all religions it needs it's own set of rituals. The mechanical hand movements, the schoolchildren gestures as they speak of the Wilford, and perhaps even the fish blood ritual are all indicative of this. Mason is a priestess of sort for the Engine cult, so it's not surprising that she would use these religious symbols more than the rest.


Consider the motions made by the children in the machine at the end of the film. One of them reaches into a pipe, turns his hand, and withdraws it full of some black stuff that he shoves into another pipe. The gesture is familiar.

I think that Mason, like the other senior members of the staff, views the Train and all of its passengers as a machine no different from the actual engine. Each person has a precise role, no different from a child shoveling grease from one pipe to another. Wilford also makes the hand gesture when he meets the protagonists. I think their acceptance of using flesh as a substitute for steel is what drives them to their cruelty in the enforcement of the train's laws, and the gesture is representative of that callous, mechanical mindset.


Wait for it...

All the people on the train who make the hand motions... used to be a child who ran the engine, until they grew up and got put into that little brain-wash school and eventually became the elite walking around the front of the train. That's my theory.

  • 1
    The director indicated that it was possible that she worked her way up from the engine room, but that this wasn't the usual way that people ended up in the front cars; scifi.stackexchange.com/a/73866/20774 – Valorum May 17 '19 at 22:14

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