Review: The Road Movie at DOXA

DOXA Documentary Film Festival runs from Thursday, May 4 to Sunday, May 14. We'll be giving you a preview taste of what this year's festival has to offer, highlighting a few of our top picks.

Film still from The Road Movie

Film still from The Road Movie

Dmitrii Kalashnikov’s The Road Movie is essentially an hour of dash-cam footage compiled from people driving on Russian roads. It is raw, usually dark, often absolutely ridiculous—a project in voyeurism. There is little to say about The Road Movie in terms of plot or characters; I couldn’t find much of either. The Road Movie is instead about the atmosphere and mood it creates, the feeling of futility and chaos, and the existentialism. 

Sometimes it seems over-the-top, absurd: there are busses catching on fire and tanks at the car wash; there is a series of bizarre and violent car crashes, there are runaway farm animals; there are fights and police brutality. All of this is filmed by a dashboard camera, the shaky, low quality giving a more nauseating effect than any of the events on the screen. All of these moments are accompanied by the drivers’ commentary: dry sarcasm, dark humour, lots of swearing, usually a tone of indifference to the entire situation.    

The film seems to present itself as a caricature of how the world views Eastern Europe: desolate, impoverished, violent. But then again, many viewers from Eastern European countries know how these peculiar situations are far from rare. The drivers get into arguments with one another, discuss pricing with a sex worker, stop to talk to people, and get into car accidents. It somehow manages to be dull, morosely funny, and existential all at the same time. The experience is less like watching a documentary and more like silently riding along in the back seat.  Do not expect much in terms of plot, dialogue, or an educational experience; The Road Movie is more of an affective experience than anything else—voyeuristic and funny in the darkest way possible.

 

The Road Movie will be screening at Vancity Theatre on May 6. Tickets can be found here.