Idle Running

(Janez Burger, 1999, Slovenia)

Usually, films about bored young men reluctant to grow up don’t interest me, but Idle Running is different.

Dizzy, a perennial student in Ljubljana, has deluded himself into believing he’s living a life of “freedom”. He does nothing but sleep, watch TV, drink with his mates and philosophise about life and soccer. It’s unclear whether the name “Dizzy” is a nick-name (because he’s anything but) or whether it’s the transliteration of the character’s Slovenian name.

Slowly, and one by one, the walls of his delusions start to close in. A friend leaves his studies to marry his pregnant girlfriend; Dizzy’s own girlfriend has had enough of their going-nowhere relationship; Evica, a fellow student and friend, has a crush on Dizzy, but instead, presents him with tea and sympathy (and represents the possibility of a “real” relationship, which terrifies Dizzy); the two Sachas (Evica’s room-mate and her boyfriend) are permanently joined at the lips, hips and genitals, the seemingly perfect besotted couple; and Marko, Dizzy’s new room-mate, proves to be more than a yodelling hick when his pregnant girlfriend arrives. In fact, Marko, the supposed dag who actually studies, sleeps in pyjamas and has neat hair, is the catalyst for the changes Dizzy experiences. Dizzy, is of course contemptuous of him at first, but gets to like him as Marko’s individuality is gradually revealed and as the friendship between Marko, Marko’s girlfriend and Dizzy develops.

Dizzy softens as the movie progresses and the different relationships he is involved in start to have an impact on him. He begins to confront himself and question his belief that “freedom” is absolute. By the end of the film there’s a (small) hope that Dizzy’s going to try to figure out who he is and what he wants from life. And then possibly, get on with it.

So what’s different about this film? It is a lot better than the storyline I’ve outlined. Yes, it’s another coming-of-age film, but what sets it apart from the many other bad ones is the unique “voice” telling the story. It’s down-to-earth, funny, even touching at times, and has one of the most erotic scenes I’ve seen in a while. There’s some great loopy monologues from Dizzy, especially in the opening scene, and absurd Seinfeldian dialogues with none of the self-consciousness or unlikeable characters of “Seinfeld”. While the main characters in Idle Running are real, flawed human beings who have their own idiosyncrasies, the supporting characters could’ve done with some fleshing out. I like the way Burger brought some gravity to the film’s generally light tone by putting in a few dark touches here and there. These scenes had me thinking after the “entertainment” was over. And the ending is open enough to allow several different readings besides the one that I chose.

All in all, I’d rather see this kind of film than some bland, big-budget Hollywood product about the maturation process any day.

About The Author

Vicky Tsaconas is a Melbourne-based writer.