Slovenian writer and director Damjan Kozole is able to bring empathy to unlikable characters and awareness to controversial issues in his 2003 feature, Spare Parts. Spare Parts is one of those films that gives you a lot to think about without giving you too much to handle. The film follows an ex-dirt biker, Ludvik Zajc (played by Peter Musevski) and young dirt bike enthusiast Rudi (Aljosa Kovacic) as they spend their nights transporting illegal immigrants across the Slovenian border from their hometown of Krsko.

While the film stars out focusing on Rudi as the new, inexperienced kid on the team and how he learns to fit in, the most interesting character arc is that of Ludvik, Krsko’s Slovenian Championship Race winner who, along with his late wife, suffers from cancer as the result of the nuclear power plant that runs in the town. Unlike his wife, he survived his bout with the disease through a treatment called aromatherapy, in which he drank his own urine everyday.

The film starts out with a well shot dirt bike race before the night job is introduced. Ludvik and Rudi ride in the front of a Scooby-Doo-esque van with over a half dozen group of illegal immigrants sitting in the back, looking tired and scared. They drive this group to a hideout where they charge them 50 euros to order them pizza. One woman, Illinka, eventually gives into their requests to sleep with each of them in return for food, antibiotics for her sick boyfriend, and extra cash to get them across the border. The boyfriend is unappreciative of her attempts to save his life by prostituting herself. Rudi is repulsed by their taking advantage of the young woman, but he joins in anyway to prove himself as “one of them.” When they finally transport the group to the border, it is learned the next morning that they have all been caught with the exception of Illinka who is presumed to either have jumped or fallen off a cliff.

The film continues on with more instances of transporting immigrants, some which are alarming to watch, as when they load dozens of people into an oil tanker, believing that “most will survive.” They must dodge police by hiding in the woods, heckle with their connections as to what they expect to be paid for each job, and deal with cleaning out the back of the van that reeks of vomit and death. Meanwhile, the best and worst of this group of men come out in situations that take place both on and off the job, making them neither totally unlikable or amiable, merely human.

This is by no means a feel good movie, but it is a film that gets one thinking about political issues such as illegal immigration and the health effects that result from the result of pollution. The film flows well with short scenes and tight close ups on the characters. Nothing is dwelt upon, but it does just enough to impact the situation and the characters involved in them. The few wide shots are of the looming smokestacks of the power plant.

Kozole does a great job of showing and not so much telling without being ambiguous or abstract in his storytelling. Musevski plays Ludvik with intense bitterness and anger, occasionally leaking out glimpses of the man he once was when he was still on his first place pedestal. This film was also Kovacic’s film debut, but you wouldn’t know it from his performance which portrays Rudi as inexperienced but not naïve. He becomes corrupted through his night job, but he never totally loses his compassion for either his clients, and in fact, his compassion grows for Ludvik throughout the course of the film as he learns more about his employer.

This film was released through Film Movement, a company known as the first to distribute films on DVD and in theaters simultaneously. The DVD includes a striking, 12 minute short film by director Joshua Leonard titled “The Youth In Us” which plays like a modern day Shakespeare tragedy between two young people in love but with a tragic fate ahead of them. To subscribe to Film Movement and get a new film delivered to you each month, visit www.filmmovement.com, or you can buy Spare Parts on amazon.

Running Time: 84 minutes

Slovenian with English subtitles.

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