Those of you who frequent international film festivals have certainly encountered a film or two that for whatever reason never made it outside of the official screenings. These films never end up with a distributor and usually remain just a distant, yet pleasant, memory which you hope one day will materialize in a deserving DVD release. To be honest with you I was not even hoping for a North American release of Damjan Kozole's latest film Rezervni Deli a.k.a Spare Parts. Part of the Berlin International Film Festival this edgy Slovenian film about illegal immigration in Eastern Europe has created quite the turmoil in its native land and though a favorite amongst European critics I think it is fare to say Spare Parts is rather unknown in America. Courtesy of small and coquette boutique label FilmMovement who never seizes to impress me with their intelligent selection of world films Spare Parts is now available on the US market though in a rather limited edition.
In the town of Krsko, home of the only nuclear plant from the former Republic of Yugoslavia, Ludvik (Peter Musevski) spends his days fighting cancer, poverty, and the bleak reality of a country in a harsh economic crisis. At night he and a group of his closest friends smuggle illegal immigrants to the Italian border where the real Europe is. Amongst those who have the courage to leave their home lands behind are Albanians, Iraqis, North Africans, and Macedonians…simple people looking for a better life. Stuffed in tiny vans reminding us that socialism and the Russian automotive industry were once ruling the region some will make it to the border others will end up suffocating to death. But freedom has a price and those who desire it must be prepared to pay for it…
While watching Spare Parts I was certainly reminded of the horrendous stories we've heard about illegal Mexican immigrants attempting to cross the Arizona desert. Although there are no deserts in and around the Italian-Slovenian border the gritty look which this film offers with suffocated people being ditched in the nearby river, an Iraqi mother who would not let go of her cold baby who has been dead for over three days, or a family of three being stuffed in the trunk of a suspiciously old car, definitely creates a gut-wrenching feeling in your stomach. There is just too much in Spare Parts that would never make it in a well-sanitized show as 60 Minutes.
Amongst all the human tragedy which Spare Parts conveys however there is also a delicate story about a man who realizes that what he does is wrong yet is unable to walk away from it. Ludvik, the once glorious motorist who the locals remember as the only Krsko native to win the National Championship race, is slowly dying. The cancer eating his body is once again showing signs of progress and though Ludvik still drinks his own urine to fight the deadly disease his days as it seems are numbered.
Spare Parts certainly made me think about Julie Bertucelli's Since Otar Left (2003) about a Georgian mother waiting to hear from her son who has immigrated to France. With Bertucelli's camera following the old woman around her native town we would witness some of the most gut-wrenching scenes of post-Soviet poverty mixed with total desperation where people literally live by the hour. Spare Parts offers the same degree of desperation where we see two kinds of people, those who have given up on life and have accepted their fate and those who still hope to find a better future in a distant land where as one of the lead characters confesses they are likely to end up as spare parts…cheap human donors for wealthy Western clients.
How Does the DVD Look?
There seems to be a bit of confusion regarding the original aspect ratio of this film as I see reports that it was shot in 1.66:1 yet the DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Looking at the composition of Spare Parts I find it hard to believe that the OAR was indeed 1.66:1 but if it was I certainly could not tell. With this said the DVD is enhanced for widescreen TV's and overall looks rather decent. As it is the case with the rest of the Film Movement catalog however it appears that this is a PAL sourced DVD. There are a few occasions where I noticed some distracting softness in the print and I suspect that those of you with more sensitive equipments will certainly notice it as well. With optional yellow English subtitles.
How Does the DVD Look?
There is hardly any need for an elaborate DTS or 5.1 tracks so the provided 2.0 Slovenian track is more than satisfying. There were no audio drops or any other significant problems that this DVD showcases.
As it is a tradition with Film Movement to include a short film of a relatively unknown director with each of their releases this time around we are offered Joshua Leonard's The Youth in Us about a young couple looking at the past in order to successfully confront the future. Not a spectacular feature but by all means one worthy of your time. Aside from that the only other extra provided inhere is a Biography section.
I absolutely loved this film and most certainly will seek the more elaborate UK disc to add to my collection. Although there are no significant extras in this release it is commendable that Film Movement have delivered such a controversial film to the US market. RENT IT.
**Editor's Note: The cover art for this review is for the Region 2 DVD. Cover art for the Region 1 version was not available at the time of posting.