SPARE PARTS (Damjan Kozole, 2003)

Absent any analysis of causes for recent refugeeism in Europe, writer-director Damjan Kozole’s Rezervni deli is more unpleasant to watch than it is edifying. This drama about the clandestine transportation of illegal refugees, for 1,000 euros a head, from Croatia, through Slovenia, and across Italy’s border, and the toll this takes on both refugees and transporters, is facile—and in rich though restrained color, irrelevantly lovely to the eye. Somehow a film in which there are multiple deaths, including an entire family that had been stuffed into the trunk of a car, should not seem so aesthetically contrived. From Slovenia, the film won in seven categories at the Slovene Film Festival, including best film, director, cinematographer (Radoslav Jovanov).
     The two main characters man one of the vans. Pot-bellied Ludvik, an alcoholic whose cancer-ridden wife committed suicide, has taken young Rudi under his wing, giving him a beating when the boy’s actions are “unprofessional.” Ludvik, a former speedway racer, asks Rudi only one question before taking him on: “Can you drive?” At film’s end, Rudi, who has taken Ludvik’s place, asks the same sole question of a new boy. By then, the same setting, with competitors racing around the track, has passed fully into metaphor. The process goes on and on, with death the only “out.”
     The title refers to a recurrent fate of the refugees. In Italy they are slaughtered for their organs, which are then sold: “One kidney,” Ludvik tells Rudi, “is worth 15,000 euros.”
     One of the refugees, a Macedonian girl who exchanges sex for medicine for her deathly ill companion, commits suicide. Nastily, Kozole, a former punk rocker, has Rudi wake up just following the reporting of this news on his television.
     The film, exploitive, lurid and self-congratulatory, is another Schindler’s List.

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