The Road Movie Review

The Road Movie is a 2018 documentary comprised entirely of footage from dashboard cameras from Russian cars.

Their reputation is a matter of internet record, loads of terrifying YouTube clips that seem to reveal a people hardened by bitter cold and streets of absolute madness. I’m talking of course about the Russians and their dash-cam recordings, a breed of videos that have spawned a generation of interest in the apparent common mayhem on the open roads of the largest country in the world. It was really only a matter of time before someone decided it was time to string some of the ‘best’ into a feature length film, and with Dmitrii Kalashnikov‘s The Road Movie, we get just that, a startling collection of unedited, narrative-free clips of their life behind the wheel and the consequences of it.

From the first shot – a view out the front windshield into a fall of snow so thick you can’t even see the hood of the car – The Road Movie quickly and firmly establishes its thematic device, a fixed camera with a singular unbroken look directly ahead. What happens in that field of view is a chaotic tapestry of wrecks, assaults, meteors, tanks, prostitutes, fire, livestock, police, gunshots and much more, all without a single word of explanation or resolution, only, in my copy of the film, English subtitles of the drivers and passengers in the cars commenting on the immediacy of the moment. Believe me, while some of that is funny, most of it is harrowing.

What happens of course, over the film’s 67-minute runtime, is an exercise in conditioning, where each transition primes us for the inevitable, where it becomes a kind of guessing game as to what is about to happen because if there one thing we learn, it’s that something bad is definitely going to happen. Be it a drive through forest fire or keeping pace with a running black bear, there is constant surprise as to what comes next. A man with a sledgehammer stakes his claim with devastating ferocity for the right of way, and you wonder … what would I do?

“And Russians sit still” says one driver waiting in dense traffic watching a band of jacked up hooligans attack a vehicle and its driver, while indeed, not a single person emerges from the cars surrounding it. It’s small observations like this that offer some insight into random pandemonium, even if it might not be representative of it all. However, there’s no denying the hypnotic effect of one scene after the other, some bewildering in context and others straight-up troubling where it’s impossible not ask, much like the disembodied voices, “Are they alive?” And you can’t help but believe Kalashnikov surely spared us the truly worst.

So what’s the takeaway? Well, there really isn’t one. We are a species hardwired to be fascinated by bedlam, the wreck of almost anything freezing us in our tracks, eye agape. Just notice how many line the streets for a fire or stop and gawk at an accident. It’s natural to want to watch, the close encounter lifting a small layer of fear as we assess the risks of our own actions, the gamble of driving part of the excitement in doing so. This is the key to The Road Movie, an experiment where our own sensibility is tested, the repeated anarchy offering us pause on our own mortality and the randomness at which it might strike. Not for everyone – though fear not, this isn’t a collection of death on wheels – this will have, if you’ll pardon the wording, plenty of impact. For sheer absurd visceral entertainment, this delivers.

The Road Movie Review

Movie description: The Road Movie is a 2018 documentary comprised entirely of footage from dashboard cameras from Russian cars.

Director(s): Dmitrii Kalashnikov

Genre: Documentary

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