EUFF Review: 'A Trip'

A Trip (Izlet)
(Slovenia, 85 min.)
Written and directed by Nejc Gazvoda
Starring: Luka Cimpric, Jure Henigman, Nina Rakovec
If you’ve attended one of the screenings at this year’s European Union Film Festival, you’ve probably witnessed the infectious little bit of head-bobbing that accompanies New Wave Syria’s “Let it Out,” which is the song featured in the festival’s official trailer. The funky elector-euphoria of “Let it Out” should give festivalgoers a good sense of what to expect when they attend the EUFF screening of Slovenia’s A Trip, the film in which “Let it Out” originally appears. A Trip is an energetic, tangibly contemporary film. Like the Swedish EUFF film Eat Sleep Die, which coincidentally screens at the festival the same night as A Trip, Slovenia’s offering at the festival should strike a chord with younger viewers or festivalgoers in search of New Wave-type fair.

A Trip might be the more upbeat feature on the night’s programme in comparison to the kitchen-sink realism of Eat Sleep Die, but both films are worthy choices. Like Eat Sleep Die, A Trip ushers in a new voice in European cinema. Writer/director Nejc Gazvoda makes a strong feature film debut by giving a fresh take on the tried and tested trope of the road movie. The film sees three friends—Ziva (Nina Rakovec), Andrej (Luka Cimpric), and Gregor (Jure Henigman)—reunite for a road trip to the sea on a journey that takes their friendship on a radical arc.

The three friends used to make the trip in high school, so they’re going back to the sea at Ziva’s request since all three of them seem to be at a turning point in their lives and they might not have the same chance to reconnect. Ziva says that she plans to study abroad and Gregor is a soldier on leave from Afghanistan. Andrej, the token gay friend, hates everything and plans to take life day by day.

A Trip, like most road movies, puts the friends on a symbolic journey as the make their way from point A to point B. Some of the friends harbour secrets when the trip begins, but things are gradually revealed as the friends progress to their destination. A drunken kiss between Ziva and Gregor stirs old feelings, both old and good, which have a ripple effect on things that have lain dormant between the threesome for years. In one moment when the friends do make a pit stop, the breeziness of A Trip explodes in a random outburst in which the three friends unleash all the tensions the friends need to release on their expedition by taking their rage out on a car discarded on a hillside. Viewers are bound to be taken aback as the three friends beat the car to pieces, but Gazvoda reframes the trip in this scene and reveals that there is much going unsaid between the friends.

The trip is mostly a jaunt of escapism, though, just as A Trip provides a fun relief for audiences. The contemporary score and music by New Wave Syria heightens the sense of freedom afforded by the trip as the friends sing along to “Let it Out” as the car drives along the winding Slovenian highway. Gazvoda offers a film that is candid and authentic, drawing on the strong performances from the three actors to create a tale that speaks of the alienation of young people in a fast-paced society that doesn’t give them much room to grow. They’re always moving, as one friend seems to be leaving while the others have nowhere to go, and the handheld camerawork conveys the restlessness of the three friends as they go in search of themselves. The escape of the road trip affords perspective—A Trip stands by the hallmark of the road movie by teaching the characters about where they’re going.

The themes of the film are palpably relevant and universal, as the side-by-side programming of A Trip and Eat Sleep Die reveals. The frustrations voiced by Ziva, Andrej, and Gregor aren’t all that differently from the stresses Raša experiences in rural Sweden. These two films offer a night at the European Union Film Festival that shows how styles and stories might shape a national cinema, but the themes underlying these films are ultimately universal. The accessibility of the two films should reverberate with Canadian viewers just as loudly as the speakers shake when they go home and blast “Let it Out” following the film.

 Rating: ★★★1/2  (out of ★★★★★)

A Trip screens in Ottawa at the European Union Film Festival on Friday, Nov. 22nd at 9:00 pm.
It screens at Toronto’s European Union Film Festival on Monday Nov. 18 at 6:30 pm.

Click here for more coverage on the 2013 EUFF.