July 24, 2008
Idle Running, 1999
With its rough hewn sequences of temps morts, odd length cuts, idiosyncratic characters, and sedate humor, Janez Burger's debut feature, Idle Running unfolds like a Jim Jarmusch film, an upended road movie of sorts chronicling a young man's proverbial journey (albeit in baby steps) towards self-discovery. As the film begins, perpetual university student and resident slacker, Dizzy (Jan Cvitkovic), offers up his own homegrown philosophy on the merits of remaining within life's sidelines, resisting artificial motion that could only result in zero displacement. Having comfortably settled in his dorm room over the last ten years, Dizzy wakes up to the sight of his newly assigned roommate, Marko (Janez Rus), a bookish freshman from the country, and immediately bristles at having to adjust his appropriated space by clearing a shelf to accommodate Marko's belongings. But even as Dizzy continues to live in complete denial of his roommate's existence by hosting late night card games and drinking parties, Marko would begin to assert his presence, first subtly, by assembling a remote control for Dizzy's handed down television set, then overtly, by bringing his pregnant girlfriend, Ana (Mojca Fatur) to stay with them. With his relationship with his girlfriend Marina (Natasa Burger) already strained by his inability to make a commitment and take on responsibility - often borrowing money to take her out on a date - Marko and Ana's relationship provides him with an unexpected glimpse into the road not taken, and with it, the possibility of life beyond the campus. Like Jarmusch's Stranger than Paradise, Idle Running captures the intrinsic humor and pathos in the essential quest for a mundane ideal. Paralleling Dizzy's opening comments with a friend's closing anecdote of a recent saga involving the convoluted process of inflating what would turn out to be a miniature basketball, Burger creates a wry analogy for life as an interminable cycle of Sisyphean struggles that can only lead to wasted energy and deflated expectation.