In Spring of 1999, NATO began a bombing campaign against the already war-torn country of Yugoslavia in an attempt to stifle the Kosovo War, another in a series of uprisings in the dissolving country. The action killed around 500 civilians and obliterated the region’s infrastructure. As the war raged on, people went about their lives out of sheer necessity. Writer/director Ognjen Glavonic uses this setting as the backdrop to his startling narrative, The Load.
“…a truck driver hauling mysterious loads from Kosovo to Belgrade.”
Vlada (Leon Lucev) works as a truck driver hauling mysterious loads from Kosovo to Belgrade. He doesn’t know what he’s hauling or why, and he’s not allowed to ask. On this current route, a bridge has been knocked out, forcing him to take a detour which brings him in contact with several colorful characters, including a stowaway teenager, before finally arriving at his destination, a quiet military base that serves no purpose other than to dig a large hole in the ground. He humbly collects his pay and returns home, but discovers the truth about his haul along the way and is faced with what it means for his family and his homeland.
While nowhere near the stark brutality of Srdjan Spasojevic’s 2010 visual assault A Serbian Film, Glavonic gives a beautifully bleak portrayal of the people whose lives were affected by constant turmoil in their country. Rather than focus on the bloodshed, he tells us what happened behind the scenes, to the people just trying to go about their daily lives. Most interestingly, when a new character is introduced, he lingers in their lives for a while, recalling the constant story fluctuations of Richard Linklater’s Slacker.
“…a slow unraveling of layers and even a bit of skepticism toward what’s happening…”
Lucev plays Vlada with subtle intensity. He’s supposed to do his job and only that, but of course he’s human, not a robot or a monster. The things he sees and the people he encounters make an impact on his life, but he reveals this through a slow unraveling of layers and even a bit of skepticism toward what’s happening around him. The rest of the cast is equally on point, exuding emotion through stoic personalities.
War isn’t just about the soldiers on the battlefield. In fact, that’s probably the smallest part of it. It’s really about the people whose lives are permanently changed by what’s going on around them. Ognjen Glavonic has made that abundantly clear in The Load.
The Load (2018) Directed by Ognjen Glavonic. Written by Ognjen Glavonic. Starring Leon Lucev, Pavle Cemerikic, Tamara Krcunovic, Ivan Lucev, Igor Bencina.
9 out of 10 stars