Labour Equals Freedom

Labour Equals Freedom


Reviewed by: Max Blinkhorn

Let me say right away that I enjoyed this straightforward film by director Damjan Kozole (Spare Parts) and if you fancy dipping your toe into foreign language movies, it's an excellent starting point. From a critic's point of view, films from other cultures are often hard to assess by definition. So it is with Labour Equals Freedom. At one level, it's a sharp, uncomplicated and at points hilariously constructed portrayal of one man's mid-life crisis, filmed with intensity and cigarette smoke. On another, it is a little too much. Even so, the whole is a watchable result and would make for excellent material in cognitive behavioural therapy for down-in-the-dumps fat blokes!

There are some obvious minor niggles - the title Labour Equals Freedom seems rather obvious and artless (as is, say Snakes on a Plane - however, maybe it's an old eastern bloc slogan and quite dry really). The subtitles were obviously produced heroically by someone whose first language is not English. On a couple of occasions, the subtitles delivered a punch line before the actors did and that spoiled some excellent moments.

Copy picture

Aside from these minor distractions, Labour Equals Freedom is a little classic. Film so often portrays love as the central plank of a story. Here, the woes and tribulations of middle-aged Peter, played by Peter Musevski, who's lost his hair, job and general zap are laid out with all their real and often cringemaking emotional gore on full view.

His lovely wife Vera, played by Nastasa Barabara Gracner, is looking for more than Peter can offer. Peter, however, has become lazy and in his own way is as selfish as his wife. They are no longer a team, as successful marriages have to be to succeed long after that first bursting flush of love (remember?!). She accelerates the decline of their relationship by yielding to a clumsy sympathy shag which throws poor Peter a lifeline of hope that things can be rescued. Needless to say, after the rush of sex, reality bites; he assumes everything's back to normal and she rejects him. The film shows Peter's further decline and it's awful.

What is clever about the film is the way the ordinariness of it all makes Labour Equals Freedom less than 'Hollywood tragic' and a better film as a result. This is real life; self-esteem is still the active ingredient but a return to ordinariness rather than riches and fame is Peters's goal. The film's realness also gives us western Europeans a real insight into the new post-Yugoslavian world of Slovenia and it ain't exactly pretty, although Bled looks nice.

Above all, I enjoyed this film for its bittersweet realness and comedic situations. The resolution of our hero's troubles seems a little too convenient but life can turn on a sixpence sometimes. I think these resolutions are more plausible than we might be prepared to accept at first sight but maybe that shows how tuned in to Hollywood values we Brits are, which is really bad news for film in general!

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2006
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Mid-life crises and marital breakdown in Slovenia.

Director: Damjam Kozole

Writer: Damjam Kozole

Starring: Peter Musevski, Nastasa Barabara Gracner, Primoz Petkovsek, Marjuta Slamie

Year: 2005

Runtime: 71 minutes

Country: Slovenia


EIFF 2006

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