LOAD, THE (TERET)
(director/writer: Ognjen Glavonic; cinematographer: Tatjana Krstevski; editor: Jelena Maksimović; cast: Leon Lučev (Vlada), Pavle Čemerikić (Hitchhiker), Ivan Lučev (Vlada’s Son); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Dragana Jovović, Stefan Ivančić, Ognjen Glavonić, Sophie Erbs; Grasshopper Films; 2019-Serbia/France/Croatia/Iran/Qatar-in Serbian with English subtitles)
“Leaves us with bleak images that are still haunting even if the Yugoslavian conflict is now all but forgotten for most people not living in the Balkans.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The debut fiction feature film of Serbian director-writer Ognjen Glavonic is a morose, wintry thriller follow-up to his award-winning documentary Depth Two, about grimly finding unknown war graves in Serbia. The Load reminds one of the trucking thriller by Henri-Georges Clouzot entitled The Wages of Fear and William Friedkin’s remake Sorcerer.
Mystery truck driver Vlada (Leon Lucev, Croatian actor), hired by some dubious men, at the onset of the Balkan war, is transporting a padlocked cargo across a scorched landscape from Kosovo to Belgrade during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. The driver and no authorities are permitted to search what is in the cargo. Because of the NATO bombing, Vlada’s route is impassable due to a blocked bridge. As the NATO bombs fall on the warring population they also drop propaganda leaflets on them to end the war.
Breaking the rules of no stopping, Vlada stops to give a ride to a young music-loving hitch-hiker (Pavle Čemerikić) to Belgrade. Now traveling on a detour road, the two riders observe the following: young thieves seeking shelter in a WW2 memorial after stealing Vlada’s valued for sentimental reasons family lighter from WW2 that barely functions, a sad wedding, a disconsolate couple living with a recent tragedy and Vlada reuniting at the end with his son (Ivan Lučev) in the film’s most optimistic moment.
The minimalist film doesn’t tell us enough about what’s going on to be enlightening, as it leaves its canvas blank asking the viewer to fill in what’s missing. Instead of suspense we get a nerve jarring road movie with limited character development. I think this humanistic survivalist tale was meant as a severe look back at a dire time to see who can survive such maddening conditions. Though not a perfect film, limited by its minimalism, it nevertheless gets across its ‘war is hell’ message and leaves us with bleak images that are still haunting even if the Yugoslavian conflict is now all but forgotten for most people not living in the Balkans.
REVIEWED ON 8/26/2019