by Vladan Petkovic
- TORONTO 2018: Darko Štante's debut feature explores problems in Slovenian youth and society, by focusing on issues of masculinity through its troubled teenage protagonist
In Slovenian writer-director Darko Štante's feature debut, Consequences [+see also:
interview: Darko Štante
film profile], which has just world-premiered in Toronto's Discovery section, our troubled – and troublemaking – hero has a lot to fight against: a lack of understanding in the family and society, the dysfunctional legal system, a small but brutal criminal milieu and, last but certainly not least, his own anger.
After 18-year-old Andrej (Matej Zemljič) refuses an attractive girl's advances at a house party, which apparently offends her so much that she accuses him of attempted rape, we see him standing trial. His mother (Rosana Hribar) tells the judge what a terrible son he is and that they cannot tolerate his constant absence from home and school, and his certainly immoral and probably illegal escapades.
So Andrej ends up in a youth detention facility, where he is immediately put to the test by house bully Žele (Timon Šturbej) and his sidekick Niko (Gašper Markun). He fights back and earns respect, but is also oddly attracted to Žele's macho charisma and no-shits-given attitude and, perhaps half-willingly, becomes a part of his gang.
And how can there even be a gang in a youth detention facility? Well, it appears that the tutors in the centre are completely hopeless: their punishment system amounts to banning the inmates from taking their weekend leave, but there isn’t even any way for them to enforce this, as they simply seem to come and go as they wish.
So on weekends, Andrej, who does not want to stay with his parents anyway, joins Žele, Niko, and their crew of mates and girlfriends, and they spend their days and nights stealing, enforcing debts from other petty criminals, and partying hard with copious amounts of booze, weed, coke and sex. As Andrej's affinity for Žele increasingly turns into adoration, we realise there is more to it than simply being impressed by an alpha-male peer.
Consequences is an unusual story set in a milieu that will be familiar to most audiences, but with a twist that opens up the issue of masculinity, how it is perceived and how it mutates in certain circumstances, in a fresh and original way. Moreover, it explores the basic problems in Slovenian society, such as a mentality that sometimes combines the worst of Mitteleuropean formality and Balkan backwardness, resulting in a lack of communication and understanding inside a family, which also affects how that family relates to the community. Then there is the legal and social system, which is presented as completely airtight under EU regulations, but is in essence creating more problems than solutions.
While Štante's directing is not exactly the smoothest, with too much scene-by-scene construction that sometimes makes the narrative feel constrained, the creative but disciplined camerawork by Rok Nagode and firmly established background and atmosphere with some very realistic Ljubljana locations, accompanied by plenty of Slovenian and Serbian trap and hip-hop music, keep the film grounded and plausible.
But what really lifts it up are the performances by the young actors, especially Zemljič and Šturbej, who confidently build characters that are both instantly recognisable and increasingly ambiguous as the story goes on, while the chemistry between them is infused with remarkable nuance.
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