“ Genre: Drama / Theatrical Release: 2003 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Damjan Kozole / Actors: Peter Musevski, Aljosa Kovacic, Primoz Petkovsek, Valter Dragan, Aleksandra Balmazovic ... / DVD released 2005-12-05 at Soda Pictures / Features of the DVD: Anamorphic, PAL, Widescreen „
Film only review
The 2003 Slovenian film "Spare Parts" managed to make it to a few UK independent cinemas, but, despite much celebration in its native country, the movie failed to make much of an impact internationally. Given the controversial theme, still highly topical some six years on, it's surprising that "Spare Parts" hasn't garnered greater recognition.
Ludvik Zajc is a former motorcycling champion who has recently suffered the death of his wife from cancer. Ludvik also has cancer. He lives in Krsk, a grimy town on the Slovenia-Croatia border, well known for its nuclear power station, a legacy from the Yugoslav days. Joined by a young "apprentice" Rudi, Ludvik is a people trafficker, taking illegal immigrants to the Italian border where they break into the "real Europe". At first Rudi is shocked by the how the traffickers take advantage of their "clients" but he follows the lead, anxious to fit in and as the men drop off their cargo night after night, Rudi's attitude begins to change.
"Spare Parts" is a fascinating film for a number of reasons. For a start, it looks at the subject of people trafficking not from the point of view of the traffickee but that of the trafficker. It's very much a "showing" rather than a "telling" film, though, which means that there doesn't seem to be any inclination to direct viewers to feel a certain way about the main characters. Although the film doesn't follow the fate of any of the traffickees, we do learn that many of those who cross the border each night don't make it very far before being arrested and sent back, only to try again when they've raised another Euro1000. We know too, without needing to be told, that what lies ahead can be even worse than what is being escaped; Rudi sums it up when he remarks that for many of the traffickees the ordeal is just beginning as the immigrants are likely to end up as "spare parts" for the rich.
The choice of director Damjan Kozole to set the film in his home town is one that is important to the film. The shadow of the power plant and the likelihood that it was the nuclear station that contributed to the cancer that killed Ludvik's wife and looks soon to see off Ludvik himself create a stark and striking background for a story set in a country better known for its fairytale capital and its snow-capped mountains. Much of the story takes place at night and locations like lonely forests and dimly lit truck stop cafes add to the eerie atmosphere.
Filmed in something akin to documentary style the dialogue is limited and the camera work very close to the actors which gives a very intimate feeling that you are drawn into the confidence of the traffickers. I found this quite uncomfortable, like it made me complicit in what was going on but it does heighten the tension very effectively and draw the viewer into the story which is really important because really the film is a series of individual incidents, each one only superficially presented. Nevertheless we get the point loud and clear. Freedom has its price and there are many willing to pay it no matter what risks lie ahead.
With limited dialogue, the two leads play their parts well; in particular, Peter Musevski makes a very convincing Ludvik, a very bitter and angry man who only occasionally shows glimmers of the hero he once was. However, this is a film that works more for the overall presentation than any individual aspect such as presentation. A dance music soundtrack conveys the right atmosphere for the adrenalin surging late night drop offs, I felt like I was right up there in the cab of the van with Rudi and Ludvik, and the opening scene that takes place at a motorcycle race track sets up the film as dramatic and edgy.
There are few moments of humour; this is a very dark and brutal film, not so much in physical violence but in the stark reality. The combination of hard hitting truth and humanity is vaguely reminiscent of Stephen Frears's "Dirty Pretty Things" but I would say that "Spare Parts" is unlikely to have the same kind of appeal. It's a film that is unlikely to hit your movie radar unless you have an interest in this part of the world but it's a worthwhile watch if you get the chance.
In Slovene with English subtitles