One Way Road Blues By Sergei Anashkin

in 21st Fribourg International Film Festival

by Sergei Anashkin

The road is a universal metaphor of inner movement, rising, finding new knowledge and self-discovery. This is why travel as an important plot unit plays a part in numerous films all over the world. Many movies about a journey were screened this March in the competition of the 21th International Film Festival in Fribourg in Switzerland.

The Chinese film How Is Your Fish Today? (Jin tian de yu zen me yang) combined two main plots: the story of the scriptwriter, disappointed in his work, and the adventure of another man in running. Both characters from South China took a long trip to the small village near the Russian frontier at the northern point of their great country. The man who tried to escape from the punishment for his crime meets his death in an accident. At the end of the journey the scriptwriter overcomes his artistic crisis and discovers a new point of view on his life. The sophisticated construction of the film allows the director Guo Xiaolu to represent the life style of the Beijing intellectual as well as the life style of a working class person and to show everyday life in different parts of modern China.

Juan, a middle-aged man, the main character in the Argentinean movie The Other (El Otro), gets a chance to change his routine and his identity by an ordinary bus trip turning into an unpredictable game when the traveler realizes that the person next to him is dead. Suddenly Juan decides to take the stranger’s name and stay for a while in a village. The plot is reminiscent of Michelangelo Antonioni’s classic The Passenger. The adventure helps the main character of The Other to clean his mind, to forget about the temptation to escape and to appreciate the simple values of human relationship which makes him finally decide to return home to his old father and pregnant girlfriend. This film directed by Ariel Rotter is neither a very deep psychological drama nor a philosophical parabola but the charm of this movie comes from the impressionistic style of its script with delicate nuances of storytelling and subtle acting.

My personal favorite was Rome rather Than You (Roma wa la n touma), a road blues from Algeria by Tariq Teguia. The story takes place at the end of 1990 when there was a double danger: the activity of Islamic terrorists and the government forces and the effect on ordinary people, forcing many to immigrate. A young man named Kamel dreams of leaving Algeria for Europe. But he first needs to recover documents. In search for a mysterious man who promised to make a false passport Kamel drives his car into the labyrinth of the city suburbs. When night falls Kamel and his girlfriend Zina lose their way. The voyagers can’t imagine that they went on the trip in vain. The person they were looking for was already dead.

I called this film a road blues because of its deep melancholy and dark power of hopelessness which has the genuine drive and inner energy of a road movie. The situation when the characters lose their way is used by the director not only as a political symbol but as a metaphor of human existence, too. Everything must be decided in one day: Is it better to continue the trip, change directions or return home?