GoCritic! Feature: History of Love and Consequences
- Our Ljubljana-based participant Marija Jeremić writes about the two very different Slovenian films that gained the most international acclaim this year
Slovenian cinema has been enriched this year by two fascinating films — Sonja Prosenc’s History of Love [+see also:
interview: Sonja Prosenc
film profile], which premiered in competition at Karlovy Vary, and Darko Štante’s Consequences [+see also:
interview: Darko Štante
film profile], which recently premiered at Toronto. In the first film, an isolated, melancholic, yet colourful world is filled with genuine affection. In the second, a loveless but realistic depiction of supressed sexuality in today’s times is shown.
The driving force of History of Love, Prosenc’s second feature following The Tree [+see also:
film profile] (2014), is an overwhelming symbolism. The story centres on Iva (Doroteja Nadrah), who tries to better understand why her mother committed suicide by reaching out to the man with whom her mother was having an affair (Kristoffer Joner).
Prosenc seems to always slightly move away from her protagonist and focus on the symbols surrounding her. For instance, in the opening scene, we can see Iva and her mother driving as classical music starts to play in the background. Both of them are shown from the side, we can only see their profiles as they intently focus on the unseen road in front of them. There is something bleak about this angle, as if the characters are not fully themselves. Iva then turns towards the camera and wipes the steam off the window. This also means that she turns away from her mother, signalizing that it is her story that will continue whereas the mother will remain a claustrophobic memory.
The cinematic language of History of Love becomes a little too obvious towards its final third: the magic realism of the woods that give back life, the overbearing symbolism of sprouting plants, and so on. Prosenc’s storytelling technique is just as eloquent as before and yet the most excellent parts of her carefully crafted characters merge with their background. It seems as if the film tries to squeeze in some shocking and suggestive imagery (a storm, a murder, a girl and a much older man alone in the woods) as an antidote to its soft and romantic aesthetics.
Consequences, an entirely different film, is Štante’s first solo feature as director. The film follows Andrej (Matej Zemljič), a troubled gay teenager, as he submerges himself in the underworld of toxic masculinity at a youth detention centre. Andrej learns that everything is allowed in the underworld, the personal playground of the detention centre’s alpha dog, Željko (Timon Šturbej).
What is really thrilling about this film is the protagonist's character development. Zemljič begins his depiction of Andrej with the emotional range of a psychopath. The story then slowly develops to show that Andrej is not just a violent teen but also a morally complex being. But is he? In this sense, the protagonist is in the background of his own story, because it is Željko who is orchestrating the teenage mafia. Željko is always in focus, sometimes it even seems that he is the one the camera is following. But the most brutal moment in the film is a low-angle shot with Andrej singled out as the main (and only) aggressor. The question whether he was always like this immediately springs to mind.
If Consequences has one problem, it is its title. Which consequences is Štante referring to? If it is meant that Andrej’s supressed sexuality is the cause of his behaviour, this can only go so far because the peak of his violence is in no way explainable by his sexual preferences. The consequences can also refer to Željko and the future of his clan ‒ but that, again, is problematic because Željko’s fate is perhaps is too brutal to be causally related to his actions.
History of Love and Consequences are not easily comparable films. It is obvious that the directing styles of Prosenc and Štante are very different. Prosenc’s eye is slow and patient whereas Štante gets to the point immediately. Prosenc’s characters are affectionate but somewhat unconvincing towards the end of the film. Štante, on the other hand, is truly in his element in the last sequence, when everything happens for Andrej. There is a lot of history in Consequences, but not enough consequences in History of Love.
*Marija Jeremić's participation in GoCritic! is co-financed by Film Centre Serbia
This article was written as part of GoCritic! training programme.
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