Since the first political border was established, illegal refugees have sought the greener pastures of other countries, hoping to escape all manner of persecution, poverty and despair. Life was so miserable, there had to be something better somewhere else or “what’s a heaven for?” The decision to make a run for it came down to two main choices: try to slip by border guards on your own or pay an exorbitant sum to agents/consultants and let them guide you down the road to freedom. And so an under-the-table, under-the-cover-of-darkness industry was born.
Fast forward to modern times and there are still daily attempts at immigration queue jumping, yet, ironically, as globalization takes further root and countries band together (notably the European Union) the need for these desperate journeys lessens and those in the relocation-without-receipts business must look to other occupations to survive.
And so to Krško, Slovenia where former motorbike champ and cancer-ridden Ludvik (played with grit and convincing fatalism by Peter Musevski) takes on his latest partner-in-illegal-relocation, Rudi (Aljosa Kovacic starts off a tad too naïve, but, like his character, soon falls into the arms of emotional hollowness as he delivers load after load of the anguished citizens who’ve no fixed address).
Director/writer Damjan Kozole provides a metaphor-rich narrative that puts everyone in the shadow of a constantly belching nuclear plant whose 24/7 excrement may well be the cause of the higher-than-average cancer rates. This power for others/over others dichotomy is reflected (at times literally) into nearly every scene.
As we meet the damned, Kozole goes to great lengths to portray their unseen oppressors and on-camera saviours as equally barbarous and corrupt: the women are forced into gang rapes while waiting their high-priced trip to freedom (€1,000 per head). None are forewarned that many of them will be killed on arrival in Italy so that their “spare parts” can be sold to the highest black market bidder (curiously, this plot line is never followed up—perhaps the sequel will venture into the transplant for the privileged culture?).
The slight subplot features Geri (Aljosa Kovacic), the reigning motorbike hero and his blow-job-on-demand bimbo, Angela (Aleksandra Balmazovic). The latter is soon fancied and bedded by Rudi only to be abandoned after their one-night stand. This storyline is not really developed but serves its purpose in reminding Ludvik what glory used to be his and Rudi that love is as fleeting as the promise of freedom.
We bear witness to a half-dozen troupes (some of whom try a second time having been caught and deported in their first attempt—not surprisingly, no discounts are offered) being herded into vans, tankers (“No Smoking” takes on new meaning) and even the trunk of an upscale, too-well-sealed car …. Then, led by the next link in the absent boss’ employees, the hapless folk dash through forest, cross streams or gouge their hands on barb-wire fences to escape one hell on earth and exchange it for another (beautifully/terrifyingly underscored by Igor Leonardi’s sparse but perfectly appropriate music).
Once Ludvik runs the final lap of the race he knows he’ll never win, the cycle begins afresh: Rudi must train his own replacement and start ferrying the next group to their future, even as the never-ending stacks from the plant lace the air with effluent from which anyone might well wish to flee. Who are the winners? JWR
The Youth in Us
United States 2005, 12 minutes
(Featured short film with Spare Parts on Film Movement’s DVD of the Month Club for new, award-winning independent and foreign films.)
How do I love thee?
Director/writer Joshua Leonard has sculpted a minor masterpiece in this thoughtful look at a couple’s (Kelli Garner, Lukas Haas) most personal moment. In just a dozen minutes, issues of abandonment, first love, euthanasia, reincarnation and knowing when “I think I’m ready” fill the screen with a depth of emotion that is rarely achieved. Sooner or later, we all face truly horrendous choices; this film adds some poetry to the despair and somewhat lessens the pain.
… Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning JWR