ND/NF REVIEW: Slovenian Pic Idly "Running" Along
by Andrea Meyer
(indieWIRE/3.28.2000) — Dizzy, the lanky, nonchalant antihero of Slovenian director Janez Burger’s debut feature “Idle Running,” graduated from college some time ago. He still lives in his own private room in the dorms, though. If he didn’t, where else would he drink and play cards with the boys, spend hours staring at a TV screen, and sleep with his girlfriend when she deigns to visit? The cute girl from down the hall, Evy (Polona Lovsin), who visibly has a crush on him, knocks sweetly when it’s time for lunch. A maid cleans up his empty beer cans. And if he feels like fondling someone else’s girlfriend in the co-ed showers, he just goes ahead and does it.
Life is just dandy for Dizzy, a charming cynic with no special aspirations, until he’s assigned a roommate. The bright-eyed newcomer, whom Dizzy insists on calling Freshman Marko (Janez Rus), understands when his roommate has smoky poker parties while he’s trying to sleep. He’s so sweet natured that he even rigs up a remote control so that Dizzy won’t have to drag his lazy ass off the bed to change channels. Dizzy has to stop ignoring Marko’s existence, however, when his pretty and very pregnant girlfriend Ana (Mojca Fatur) moves in. That’s when Dizzy is forced to wake up and realize that some people out there are doing grown-up things like moving out of the dorms and having babies.
Burger’s low-budget film makes you nostalgic for the early American indies of auteurs like Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, and John Sayles, before they got fancy and well financed. Obviously made for very little money, the gritty black and white unrehearsed quality of “Idle Running” recalls “Stranger Than Paradise” with its similarly monochromatic portrait of young adult inactivity. Like Jarmusch’s quirky trio, Dizzy and his friends spend hours watching TV and making mindless, drunken conversation about life’s banalities.
In one particularly revealing scene, Dizzy asks Evy to translate the back of a can of some Spanish stew, then takes the opportunity to run his finger all the way up her bare leg. For him, it’s just something to do (for her, it’s heartbreaking). Unlike John Lurie’s Willie, the lead here, played with adorable, unshaven detachment by Jan Cvitkovic, has a gleam in his eye and a potential determination in his gait. While he might not have any specific goals in life, he has a vague intellectual curiosity about another kind of life, which is triggered by his young roommates’ domestic bliss.
Dizzy’s world turns around somewhat predictably when Ana’s delivery date nears and the kids still have no money or apartment. He begins to change in subtle ways: buying groceries; picnicking — doing things the old Dizzy might have mocked. What’s refreshing is the gentleness of his transformation as a character. There is no real moment of epiphany. His eyes are gradually opened to other possibilities. The film’s humor — and the quiet, realistic performances that Burger skillfully elicits from his youthful cast — are similarly understated.
With the exception of one overly long scene in which the self-confident Dizzy dishes out his relationship with his irritated girlfriend, the film crawls along at a lazy yet entertaining pace. All the while, it keeps you glued to Dizzy’ world, hoping he’ll find his way, or just as equally pleasing, watch him founder.
[Andrea Meyer is a NY-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to indieWIRE.]