It may take audience members a while to settle into the strange rhythms and quiet political statements of Alberto Fasulo’s TIR, but it is an unmissable and startling new form of film. Following the tribulations of a hard-working long hall truck driver, the film is profound in its statements on the conditions of modern labour and the toll that has on individual existences.
Reviewed by Drew Ninnis.
Director: Alberto Fasulo
Screenplay: Alberto Fasulo, Enrico Vecchi, Carlo Arciero.
Runtime: 87 minutes.
Cast: Branko Zavrsan, Lucka Pockaj, Marijan Sestak.
Trailer: We got a great big convoy.
Plot: Part documentary, part drama, Alberto Fasulo’s TIR documents the working life of a long-haul truck driver. Criss-crossingEurope’s highways and back alleys, Branko lives out of his truck – cooking and showering at the side of the road, and sleeping in the cab of the truck. Occasionally he is paired with partner Lucka; but for the majority of the film he is alone, negotiating problems at home via phone and pushed around by a distant head office which is focused on interests other than Branko’s.
Festival Goers? See it.
Viewed as part of the Lavazza Film Festival.
Review: Billed as an innovation in the art of documentary and filmmaking, it is hard to know how to treat Alberto Fasulo’s TIR – as an honest documentation, or as an artful fictionalisation, or both. No matter; on either scale the film is outstanding, one that is quiet in celebrating its own triumph but leaves audiences with a great deal to think about. Within the broader festival, the economy and the distressed state of the proletariat have been common themes; with TIR, the theme is transformed into a powerful critique and is well worth seeing.
The film follows Branko; a Bosnian long-haul truck driver who earns four times as much in this difficult, new occupation as he did as a school teacher. But the life is not easy; and the film is quick to survey the two elements of this hard existence that keep him most haggard – the lack of sleep (he remarks that he is lucky to get four to six hours), and the distance from his wife and family, who have staged but touching conversations with him over the phone throughout the film. Branko is pulled in every direction at once – as his wife wants him to come home and resume teaching, his son wants help with a housing deposit, and his bosses want him to put in a great deal of overtime to please their customers. Branko is stoic in the face of all of these demands; doing the best at his job, and joking gently with his driving partner Lucka. ‘And so we this year we are leaving our wives alone for the holidays,’ he laments; while Lucka quips ‘basically, yes’ in a tone that isn’t disappointed. Yet Lucka is quick to bow out of the film, with a wife and son at home with a severe fever and himself hundreds of miles away, the company insisting that he continues working. Lucka makes his choice and leaves; railing at the bureaucrats who take little account of the toll their demands make on the drivers. 'We need to go home, everything is falling apart here' he concludes, before making his choice.
That toll is fully displayed through Brancko, with poetic late-night shots of him cooking an entire meal by the side of the road, shielded only by his truck, or showering to take some of the stink off himself that he complains about to his distant wife. Never has a man squatting in the dark to wash his dishes seemed so poignant, and Fasulo as cinematographer captures some outstandingly composed shots of truck stops, streetlights, and alleys with telephone poles that stretch never-endingly into the distance. All of this while our characters shoot the breeze, Branko remarking on his children that ‘maybe they sank like the titanic and we don’t know it yet. It really feels like we don’t exist for them.’ Everything about this film takes a slow measure of time to disclose itself; from the deep backgrounds of the shot, to the seriousness of Branko’s working conditions. He moves from empty warehouse to empty warehouse, working in isolation and dutifully making his deliveries. Some snippets are so incidental yet full of humanity – like a discussion of a friend and mechanic who refuses to charge for his help – but this is exactly how the deep meaning of Fasulo’s film seeps into the frame. It holds at bay an inhuman feeling, as logo after giant logo sweeps past the camera, plastered onto the side of the trucks. The names are generic and formulaic; giving the impression that these companies are no longer composed of human beings, but just an inevitable logic.
‘Where are you?’ one caller asks Branko, ‘in Nantes’ he replies in a wry expression of his post-modern, dislocated experience. ‘'How long will you have to work like this?’ his wife asks. Any sense of community that Branko has, usually among fellow transient drivers, is contingent and fragile – and at the climax of the film, Branko gets inconvenienced by a truck driver’s strike that he feels no part of, despite suffering under the same conditions. I take this to be the ultimate message of the film, which is about more than just globalisation and jobs, but about meaning. When the meaning of your labour drains out of your work, and it is just a job to survive, then the meaning of your private life, you community, and your family are quick to follow. It is a heavy toll for beings who, above all, search for meaning in what they do – and as TIR deftly points out, this future of labour may be the end of so much else.
A really engaging couple of festival goers were nice enough to stop and chat with me about the film, as we were leaving the cinema. They too enjoyed the film, but the point they made really resonated with me. They highlighted that in the 1970s, films like these were set in factories and involved a community of workers getting together to form a union and to protest, to effect change. Branko has no such opportunity; he is isolated, and alone. There’s a distance and an alienation involved in a job with so little contact with other and increasing automation – it forestalls, from the outset, the possibility of change for those caught up within the system and represents a long-term victory for the champions of capital. It comes at a huge existential cost, as Alberto Fasulo demonstrates.
Many films throughout the festival, particularly A Lonely Hero, have attempted to capture this narrative and failed. On those exact same terms, Alberto Fasulo’s masterpiece TIR is a great success.
Rating: Four stars.