July 22, 2008
Spare Parts, 2003
Like Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Damjan Kozole's Spare Parts is imbued with a metaphoric yellow haze, a contamination that has tainted the souls of those who move in the periphery of everyday inhumanity and despair. Opening with a seemingly mundane, bookending episode of a mentor meeting his assistant for the first time at a motocross racetrack, the dangerous, adrenaline-fueled setting serves as an appropriate backdrop for Rudi's (Aljosa Kovacic) initiation into the booming, risky enterprise of human trafficking, shuttling illegal immigrants from the Middle East, African subcontinent, and the "other" Europe across Slovenia and its border gateways into Italy and Austria at 1,000 euros per person. Riding alongside veteran trafficker, Ludvik (Peter Musevski), a somber widower who seems as equally resigned to the past as he is to imparting his knowledge on surviving the trade (and perhaps implicitly, its moral consequences), recounting fond memories of his glory days as a former motocross champion, as well as the logistics of transferring, camouflaging, and dropping off people at the border in a way that mitigates risk of detection for both parties. At times, the immigrants are detained soon after reaching the other side and are promptly returned to their native countries, only to try again when they have saved enough money for another trip. At other times, the travails of crossing into Europe is only a prelude to a more horrific journey, as these undocumented immigrants fall prey to other criminal enterprises and turned into prostitutes or reduced to organ harvested "spare parts". And still other times, they never reach the other side, succumbing to illness, accidental death, or simply unable to live with the guilt of the untold cost of their passage. Bracing in its unsentimentality and haunting in its implication, Spare Parts is a laudable addition to Slovenia's rich cultural history of social realist films. As in Crime and Punishment, Kozole reflects moral decay through the decay of the city - a man-made contamination of nature that is suggested in the opening image of a polluted, industrial landscape of nuclear power plants and billowing factories, and is also subsequently implied in the experimental, homemade elixir that Ludvik drinks to treat his cancer - a reflection of humanity's self-inflicted wound in the wake of rapidly transforming geopolitics and economic exploitation.