Sergei Loznitsa moved over from documentaries to features with this ironically titled, over-praised Road Pic, a wintry journey into the Ukrainian heart-of-darkness. The film starts out in a recognizable fashion as a young truck driver heads out and meets a few eccentric types (deranged war vet; teenage hooker) before heading off into uncharted territory in an idiotic attempt to avoid a traffic tie-up. Hopelessly lost, he encounters villains on all fronts, from savage roaming thieves to uniformed thugs, before disappearing from the narrative. So much for our näif Candide. By now, Loznitsa has tossed in a few flashbacks to WWII era atrocities, presumably to show how little mankind has changed, before piling on new cases of human misery, climaxing in a violent epiphany that feels forced, caged off an old nihilist’s bucket-list. Oddly, the film has little documentary flavor to it, even during the long drives to nowhere. Perhaps Loznitsa is going thru a molting stage for better things to come. His latest, a WWII story called IN THE FOG/’12, has been well-received. But then, so was this.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: For a more persuasive view of Russian backwater towns & attitudes, try Andrey Zvagintsev’s stunning family drama/thriller THE RETURN/’03.