Monday, January 21, 2013

Drive: road movie tendencies in Tower and Krivina

There is a key image in two recent films of that of two people - not necessarily friends but not strangers, either - in a car driving on a highway talking to each other and trying to communicate something, which turns out to be difficult to say. Since both of these films, Kazik Radwanski’s Tower and Igor Drljača’s Krivina, are set in Toronto one could propose to place these scenes in the road movie tradition set forth by the seminal Canadian film Goin' Down the Road. In a spread out country, where there are many opportunities (or the perception of such) offered elsewhere, sometimes the best option is to get in a car and drive. It is this simple impulse, the feeling to get away and start anew, and to share one's stories with whoever they are with, which empowers some of the more powerful scenes in Tower and Krivina.

In Tower there is a scene where Derek (Derek Bogart) is with his coworker and they are in a car, stuck in traffic on their way to a construction site. The man reveals to Derek a lot about himself: how he moved to Toronto from the countryside of Ireland and how he likes woodwork. Derek, on the other hand, spends his nights going out to clubs, getting drunk, and trying to pick up girls (usually unsuccessfully). Derek has been seeing this nice and compassionate woman Nicole but which he breaks up with for no rational or explained reason. When he's in the car with his peer, Derek relates to him this story of Nicole who he "started dating" and how he is committed to her and how he was thinking of maybe settling down. Even though what he's saying is a lie, Derek in this moment is opening up and explaining not what is actually the reality but what would make him happy.
Drljača has worked with the lead actor of Krivina, Goran Slavkovic, since the beginning of his film-making career. In Drljača’s films, from his years as a student in the Film Production program at York University, the two of them collaborated together on The Wound (’05), The Battery-Powered Duckling (’06) and On a Lonely Drive (’09). It’s a great coup of casting, in a filmography full of great actors and performances, as Slavkovic is a versatile and layered actor. In his roles Slavkovic has a Sylvester Stallone-like quality. Like Rambo, Slavkovic is able to embody the harsh realities of wartime experiences and the tough outer-shell that it creates while also being able to express a buried sensitivity. Which he embodies in his roles as a brooding sniper in The Wound, the truck-driver in Duckling, a father who just had a fight with his wife in Lonely Drive, and the humble wanderer in Krivina.

In Drljača’s films the main character carries around with him an object that he uses as a safety blanket, which is something that they hold onto to make life easier and less frightening. In The Fuse, a young Igor has the memory of the art-class assignment of a spring-time painting, in Battery-Powered Duckling (one of Drljača’s most ambitious short-films) the teenager continuously listens to the radio that is commenting about the status of people in the various zones, in On a Lonely Drive the child listens to his iPod to drown out his parents fighting, and in Woman in Purple the boy has his basketball. This is less applicable to Mobile Dreams, which is an atypical film for Drljača, as it is about seniors while he usually focuses more on childhood and youth.

Drljača’s other short-films, which were not in the recent retrospective Between Boundaries at The Royal, weren’t included as they are described to be “school assignments” and “work exercises.” Even though these other short-films are not as elaborate and polished as the films on Drljača’s 'official' directing credits, there is still a thematic continuity that travels across Drljača’s other short-films: The Wound (probably the strongest of the group), Juxtaposing the Electoral Spectacle, and the footage of the York University CUPE 3903 student protest. These videos can be fond on Drljača’s YouTube channel, igordrlj.

Krivina has many road movie scenes. In Miro’s search for his old friend Dado there are scenes where Miro is in a car or as a passenger on a bus. Miro is driven by his friend Drago (Jasmin Geljo) on their way to work at a construction site. In these car-rides they share many personal thoughts and vent their frustrations. At an ambiguous moment in the film, Drago is talking about having to put down his dog when he first arrived to a refugee center in Canada and how in an indirect way the officials told him that he couldn’t keep his pet. Drago keeps talking and we are no longer sure if Miro is still there. And in an abrupt change of tone there is loud rock music that takes over the soundtrack.

So what is the safety blanket in Krivina? Is it the photograph that Miro carries around with him of his lost friend, who he is desperately trying to find? Maybe. But I think that it is more the dialogue Drago has with Miro and himself as he is driving in his car. The only way for Drago and others to better understand their situation is by talking about their experiences and to try to make sense of the absurdity. It is this discussion of hopes and regrets and the fact that he can voice his needs and wants, which allows Drago to continue living. The story of Drago needs to be further elaborated, which is Drljača’s idea for his following feature-length film.

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