Dual is a whirlwind romance between two lost young women over the course of twenty-four hours.
Tina (played with incredible nuance by Nina Rakovec), a Slovenian hostel worker, finds the freedom to break from her mundane life thanks to a young Danish woman, Iben (played with spark by Mia Jexen), who finds herself stranded at Tina’s hostel. Without so much as a “hello”, Iben nearly begs Tina to drive her around the city in the hostel’s shuttle van. Tina reluctantly agrees. This is the first in a series of tender experiences that makes up their first night together; it grows intimate the first moment the two are alone, and continues to grow the further they ride.
As they pass lit buildings, trees, and street signs, their lights blur to form diamond shapes and we get the sense this is the way the two women feel. Maybe it even inspires them.
The film’s writer-director, Nejc Gazvoda, confidently marries soaring moments that belong in musicals, on stage, with scenes quiet enough that no other medium serves them except film. He favours long takes and medium-wide shots, all of which service the naturalistic style in speech and character he happily keeps on display in the film’s best moments. There’s a song that bookends the film that its characters sing, and at the beginning it makes you wonder: Is this a musical? No, and it’s a one-off, but it sets the hypnotic, sleepy mood and from that point on never lets up.
Not that the story doesn’t try to free itself from its own self-afflicted atmosphere. Emotions fly from everyone: Tina and Iben, Tina’s co-worker Matic, Tina’s mother, father, and brother, and even a relatively minor character, Iza, who serves as Matic’s “one that got away”.
Gazvoda not only does he write Dual’s leads and supporting characters well, he writes the background performers. The attention to detail is incredible. Throughout the events of the first third, three virtually silent background performers – backpackrs, in the film, on the same shuttle bus as Iben when she arrives – engage in their own silent unrequited romance; there’s an elderly couple Iben sees in the bathroom that gets their own adorable mini story.
We learn about halfway through, just as Tina and Iben admit to one another they really like each other, and want to be with each other, that their romance is all but doomed. In a coffee shop, both women express secrets in their native languages – languages the other can’t speak. Tina, in the throes of infatuation, admits she wants to see Iben naked. Iben, on the other hand, starts out soft and then admits she’s got “something in her head” and she will be dead soon.