Consequences (Posledice) is the first gay-themed film ever produced in Slovenia, although this isn’t due to any anti-LGBT politics affecting their society. Gay people in the country are afforded the same rights as the average European country, with the only exception being same-sex marriage, which is yet to be legalised despite widespread support both from the population and the country’s parliament. The threats of violence aren’t as strong as they are in neighbouring Balkan countries, which adds a further dramatic hurdle to any filmmaker adopting a standard “coming out” narrative to take place in Slovenia. After all, if this is an environment when you’re more likely to be accepted than not, where can you turn for dramatic conflict?
The feature debut of director Darko Stante manages to find a new angle on a familiar staple of LGBT storytelling, throwing its protagonist into a world of hyper-masculinity that seems beyond parody. It feels contemporary due to, for the most part, the lack of overt homophobia – here, even the name calling is embedded with a bizarre homoeroticism, so comfortable with their sexuality the (presumably) straight characters appear to be. The tension from the drama doesn’t stem from the protagonist opening up about his sexuality, so much as it comes from him realising an inner sensitivity at the precise moment he falls in with a crowd who don’t have a sensitive bone in their bodies. It’s an unusual, refreshing dynamic that makes this stand apart from similar coming out tales.
18 year old Andrej (Matej Zemljic) is sent to a youth detention centre following concerns by his parents and the courts following a string of delinquent crimes, which culminated in his frustrated attack of a woman he couldn’t get erect to have sex with. Arriving at the centre, he immediately becomes the rival of another aggressive resident, Zeljko (Timon Sturbej), who aims to find conflict with anybody in his vicinity over the most trivial situations. After he seems Andrej at the gym and realises his superior strength, he enlists him to join his gang, leading him on elaborate schemes to take money from those who have owed him previously. After one high stakes, messily violent theft, Zeljko realises that Andrej is gay – but his unexpected reaction causes further confusion for Andrej. Not only does he have to hide his sexuality, he also has to work out whether it’s being used as a subtle blackmail tool to keep him involved for increasingly criminal schemes.
It’s hard to do justice to the unique character dynamics within the drama that make this more surprising than the average coming out story. The appearance of hyper masculinity initially seems somewhat akin to the excellent Beach Rats, but this is altogether more complex than being a story about a young man discovering his sexuality in a defiantly heterosexual locale. His peers approach homosexuality as an odd curio, using it as an insult and yet indulging in graphic homoerotic displays when it comes to the manner in which they interrogate those who have gotten in their bad books.
The sexuality of Zeljko remains somewhat ambiguous too, never becoming clear as to whether he’s showing genuine affection after hearing Andrej’s secret, or using it as a tool in his arsenal to get him to do his dirty work. It’s an impactful character study, showing two men with the capability to be sensitive and emotionally intuitive turning to a life of violence instead – which proves to be more harrowing than the ramifications of their criminal actions.
Consequences (Posledice) may be Slovenia’s first gay-themed film, but director Darko Stante isn’t wasting time by getting audiences in his homeland up to speed with the genre conventions. His film takes the expected narrative you’d expect from a story of a man coming out in this environment and flips it on its head, creating something more unexpected, more confrontational, and altogether more exceptional.