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  • Ben Turner

Consequences *****


Starring: Matej Zemljic, Timon Sturbej, Gasper Markun

Director: Darko Stante

Country: Slovenia

Every year, amongst the slew of LGBT movies released from mainland Europe, there’s usually just one or two that stand head and shoulders above the pack. This year, Slovenian Consequences is one of those films.

Andrej (Zemljic) is an angry young man. Sent to a young offenders’ institution for assaulting a girl because he was unable to have sex with her, he has to stand up for himself from the moment he arrives. The domineering Zele (Sturbej) is a presence to be reckoned with. Strong, forceful and overbearing, Andrej finds himself drawn to this dangerous figure, who at first he wants to be like and then just wants to be with. Zele immediately recognises that Andrej’s admiration goes beyond just respect and lures him into a manipulative relationship where his loyalty is rewarded with sex. But Andrej’s sexuality is a well-guarded secret, which Zele uses to keep absolute control over him.

This is a gritty urban drama that takes manipulation to its extremes. We’ve seen plenty of films in which a character is manipulated into committing a crime using sex, but doing this through two such masculinised men is something rarely seen on film. And this isn’t exaggerated masculinity; they’re not over-compensating or assuming a persona. This is masculinity that has lust for itself. And as the sexual manipulation reaches its zenith, the camera isn’t shy from showing what feels like the beginnings of a Triga film. It’s Triga with context.

Tension mounts throughout its narrative as the relationship becomes more and more toxic. Andrej is unable to see the wood (ahem) for the trees, but while we can see just how noxious Zele really is, the casting of such an intense but striking actor shows us exactly how Andrej – or anyone – could overlook this. The light of his affection is glorious when it shines on you, but unlike Andrej, we can see what it’s like with the light off. The foreboding of what will happen to Andrej when he sees it too is what drives the entire film.

The system within which Andrej finds himself is pretty broken. He’s locked up in a minimum security unit from which he can choose to abscond. They go home for the weekend and can lie about where they’ve been. His arrival at the unit is the start of a downward spiral, which is as much a cause of his fall as was his actions that got him there. The supervisors (they’re certainly not “guards”) are weak and ineffectual, without any real power to do anything but pass the buck to the police. It’s unfortunate that he meets Zele under these circumstances, but it’s the system that allows someone like Zele to exist.

There’s plenty of social commentary underpinning the narrative that is far bigger than this small-scale story of debility, but more significant than these is the sheer depth this character study goes to. While fairly enigmatic on the surface, it’s a tribute to both Zemljic and Sturbej’s skill that they are able to portray the attraction between these characters with such animal virility and without a mere flash of sentimentality. There’s nothing romantic or even affectionate; this is about trust, loyalty and sex. And that frankness is in its hyper-realism too.

This is far from the Alpine image most people have of Slovenia, but in its depiction of anger and self-loathing, we see a society riddled with social inequality. While Andrej is deeply flawed, we can’t help but root for him to overcome the trap that many of us would have fallen into. See-sawing between bubbling anger and brewing vulnerability this an outstanding piece of filmmaking.

OUT ON 15TH JULY ON DVD AND ON DEMAND, RELEASED BY PECCADILLO PICTURES.

#Consequences