In The Road Movie, director Dmitrii Kalashnikov uses footage from dashboard cameras of cars in Russia to form a collection of stories. Each clip is its own anecdote with its own set of circumstances. Kalashnikov varies these short episodes so that in the movie’s 72 minutes, we feel terrified, confused and entertained.
We are passengers in the cars, watching these little events as if they were happening right in front of us. Whatever the dash-cam picks up is what we see. On one hand, this gives us direct access to everything that occurs in front of the windshield. When a vehicle collides head-on into ours, we see it so clearly that we feel exposed to it. Instead of witnessing a car crash, we’re in it. When a furious man faces the car and shoots, he’s shooting at us. This constant exposure makes The Road Movie so unsettling.
On the other hand, however, the dash-cam limits what we see and how much we know. In a particularly distressing scene, two cars collide. The fronts of both cars are obliterated. The passengers in our car speculate about what happened, asking which car caused the crash and whether someone died. When a crowd forms, we can only watch from inside our car. We can’t hear what the crowd says or get a closer look at what’s left of the cars. We can’t see just how badly people are hurt, so we must rely on what the passengers say.
“They are like gods in some way,” Kalashnikov said. “What they say will be the reality.” Throughout the movie, our curiosity comes from what we don’t know and the fact that we’re not handed a definitive explanation or conclusion.
Although the movie features collisions, explosions and fires, The Road Movie isn’t without humor. The passengers react with hilarious disappointment when what they expected to be a normal drive ends with their car getting stuck in a river or sliding into the roadside brush. Their profane responses are relatable, and we’re able to sympathize with people whose faces we never even see.
Some of the best moments are random. For instance, a person makes a parachute landing in the distance, a bear runs in front of us in the middle of the road and a man sits on the hood, making gestures and refusing to leave. Anything can happen on the road, so when each new clip begins, we don’t know what we’ll see.
The Road Movie takes advantage of the anxiety we’ve all felt while driving. We can’t help but stay alert, hoping our car and the others make it through whatever poses a threat, from awful weather to awful drivers. Kalashnikov shows us that no matter how normal we seem, life has an unlimited potential for weirdness, catastrophe and promise.