Train Driver's Diary

Reviewed by Stephen Pye

This film was nominated by Serbia for the best foreign language film at the 89th Academy Awards in 2017. It is directed by Milos Radovich. It did not make the shortlist.

The film starts with protagonist Ilija (actor and producer Lazar Ristovski) telling us in voice-over how many people he has inadvertently killed during his career as a train driver. We then see him crashing into a van containing a six-part Gypsy brass band. His subsequent visit to a psychologist is one of the film's more hilarious moments.

Meanwhile, a ten-year-old boy, Sima, is disappointed when he finds out his real parents are dead and runs away from his orphanage, intending to commit suicide. Of course, he decides to do so by throwing himself in front of a train. This time, Ilija manages to brake at the last moment, and takes the boy under his wing.

Eight years later, Sima (non-professional actor Petar Korańá) has graduated and wants to become a train driver. Of course, Ilija won't let him, although their neighbours, Sida and her husband, another train driver, Dragan "Diesel" are trying to convince him otherwise. They all live in a railway depot, with Ilija owning a large room where he grows flowers, and the couple in a beautifully arranged train car. There is also Ilija's lady-friend Jagoda , and the two often spend intimate, but platonic evenings together.

The boy grows up and eventually becomes a train driver himself. He is terrified though of killing anyone which literally drives him to drink and despair and almost ruins his career. His adopted father comes up with the idea of placing himself on the track so his adopted son will run him over and in so doing banish his fear. This he fails to do only because a car driven by a train driver becomes stuck on the track at a crossing just before the tunnel where his adopted father lies waiting. The first train driver (who is a renegade) is killed by Sima's train and his uncle is spared.

The film ends with Sima driving a train on which sit Ijija and Jagoda on their honeymoon.

The film won the audience award at last years Moscow film festival. It was much appreciated by the audience at the Alhambra on Sunday evening. The acting though was uneven, some scenes were fanciful beyond belief and therefore grated like the noise of the breaks on the train, and the attempt at black humour in dealing with a real life problem, the fact that jumping under moving trains is a pretty fail safe way of committing suicide and that train drivers innocently kill quite a lot of people, did not in the end survive its own test.

On the good side if you think our railways are substandard with dated locomotives and rolling stock,then try Serbian rail!