Consequences follows the downward spiral of 17-year-old Andrej Podobnik, a troubled young man in Slovenia who must adapt to the harsh hierarchy of a youth detention facility and come to terms with his sense of self and emerging same-sex attraction.
Written and directed by Darko Ṧtante, Consequences had its world premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was hailed as the first narrative LGBTQ film from Slovenia. Now, it’s making its way onto V.O.D. across numerous streaming and cable platforms.
“I think the best part of all of this right now is that I have achieved what I wished for our movie,” Ṧtante says. “It’s even topped much of what I was dreaming for – now to be present in the States is something I’m really proud of!”
Drawn from his own experiences working in a youth correctional facility, the Slovenian filmmaker’s debut big-screen feature is a hard-hitting portrayal of adolescence. Anchored by the performance of the newcomer Matej Zemljic as the main character, Consequences takes an unflinching look at the impulses and insecurities of adolescence.
After repeated brushes with the law, Andrej is summoned before a judge for his anger, violence and deceit. He’s soon sentenced to a youth detention center, and his exasperated parents approve. His emotionally distant mother tells the court: “He lies, he steals. … The police keep coming to the house. … I can’t worry about him anymore –please do something!”
The film gives us an indication of Andrej’s sexual leanings in the opening frames, when, at a teenage party, he is led upstairs by the hottest girl there, only to beg off at the last minute.
“What’s wrong?!” she indignantly fumes. “You’ve been hitting on me all night and now can’t even get it up! Impotent – at your age?”
Once he arrives at the center, Andrej finds approval and camaraderie with Željko (Zele for short), the aggressive leader of the center’s primary gang, which he quickly joins. Zele has a side business as the local pot dealer/loan shark, and he persuades Andrej to work for him as his enforcer. Eventually, this situation has our hero even turning on his roommate Luka, one of his first and only true friends at the center.
Before long, Andrej is descending into drugs, clandestine gay sex, violence and blackmail. Yet behind all of his posturing lies a fragility, particularly once Zele begins exploiting him in return for keeping his homosexuality a secret. In the end, he must decide between continuing into a life of crime or staying true to himself, regardless of the consequences.
Ṧtante’s film (titled Posledice in its native Slovenia) is peopled with rich, raw, and bitingly true-to-life characters, including the ineffectual counselors and checked-out administrators who run the facility, and the hot-tempered punks who are on the fast track to becoming full-fledged mobsters.
“Cinema today is becoming way too much just entertainment. It doesn’t ‘say’ much anymore,” Ṧtante says. “Yes, we have all these superhero movies, and they are OK to some degree, but we shouldn’t do just movies like that. In Slovenia, we’ve never had a movie like this. But it’s not just a movie about a youth facility and the status of LGBT youth. It’s also a view on all of today’s youth in our country (and probably also in other places too). Slovenia doesn’t make movies like that.”
He also feels that the film is, in several ways, a commentary on the human rights that he feels are at stake all over the world. “So although it’s set in Slovenia, it’s not strictly just about Slovenia,” he says.
For many viewers, this film may serve as an introduction to both Slovenia and its LGBT community. Ṧtante is aware of this, but it doesn’t faze him.
“When I was working on Consequences, I didn’t think about this. I just wanted to tell a story,” he says. “For this film, my aim was to show some gay characters in a not quite clichéd kind of a way. I was really trying to show LGBT characters and their problems as something totally normal.”
Since the country gained its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Ṧtante says, it has had more liberal governments that have done their part to establish a modern state that respects any type of human rights.
“But there are still lots of individuals and political parties who, in reality, simply don’t accept these rights,” he says. To underscore his point, he recalls a national vote that was taken in 2015 to ratify a law that would guarantee equality to all the rights of both heterosexuals and homosexuals.
“The voters refused this law,” he says. “I think that says a lot about the real state of rights in Slovenia and maybe even more about the state of mind of its citizens.”
At the same time, Ṧtante does grant that Slovenia has progressed a lot in terms of LGBTQ rights overall – and definitely when compared to many other central European states.
“But then you have to consider the level of intolerance in some of those countries,” he says. “My hope is that our film will broaden the space for acceptable speech about the reasons for this intolerance, hatred and violent behavior toward those who think and act different.”
Going back to how his fundamental inspiration for Consequences sprang from his time working in a youth facility similar to the one in the movie, Ṧtante says, “I felt that this story needed to be told now because I was ready to do it.
“I didn’t do much research because I knew how things are, having worked in these kinds of places in Slovenia. I had so much experience that I knew exactly how things have to be presented. I’m very critical about the state of things in these institutions – distinctly because things there don’t change as they should.”
In Slovenia, he says, there is still a great stigma around being gay – and it’s all the greater in reformatories such as the one in the film.
“Of course, there are plenty of gay boys in these types of institutions,” he says. “But we systematically pretend that there isn’t, so we don’t talk about it. Even if some of the boys tried to talk about it among themselves, we’d somehow avoid it, so it’s like we are still living in earlier times.”
He even says that some of the staff would truly believe it was impossible for any youthful offender who was gay to be living there.
“They’d insist that it’s not OK because he wouldn’t be accepted from other inmates,” the director says. “But I really think those in charge who don’t accept LGBT individuals are the ones who have issues about these topics, and in a way, could be subconsciously encouraging the other boys to be intolerant toward any of the guys who are gay.”
When asked whether he’s more partial to the writing or the directing aspect of his job, Ṧtante says he favors writing – in its initial phases.
“You’ve got to know the characters as they would be in real life,” he says. “Having new ideas, creating an interesting environment, and specifically developing characters – without a good story based on fine plot points and fully developed characters, you can’t do much. In fact, the basic elements of the plot are the first things I address, then the characters.”
But, he says, later, when it came down to developing the script, he found that the strict attention to detail required to maintain the story structure or finetune any twists or plot devices could get a bit tedious.
“In that phase, it gets pretty technical, and I actually don’t like that as much. I honestly prefer directing,” he says. “From a creative point of view, I try to convince all my performers to do their best to establish what I need. I also think it’s very important that you have an open communication so that everybody in the process gives their best. And it’s especially important for a director to have the right answers should an actor ask him anything about the character he is playing, so that the actors can do their best as the characters they are playing. If they are not multi-dimensional and believable, then it won’t work.”
He also emphasizes the importance of the characters remaining consistent. “You have to be very careful at what stage of the story a certain character is at. It’s not just an actor’s job to pay attention to it, you as the director have to do it together with him.”
When casting the crucial role of Andrej, Ṧtante says, he was searching for someone who could be convincing as a tough aggressive guy and at the same time as a vulnerable, tender kid in search of liberation.
“A James Dean style of an actor,” he says.
For the role of Žele, he had to find an actor who could similarly convey some sense of duality.
“Yes, he’s a hard-bitten guy, but at some level he, too, has a tender side,” the director says. “He’s just too damaged to permit himself to show it. Both Matej and Timon Sturbej, who plays Zele, have done their job as expected. They are both really talented guys who fulfilled everything I expected from them and more. I’m really proud [of] what we’ve achieved together.”
Happily, he notes, many of the audiences who saw the film during its time on the film festival circuit and during its brief theatrical run seem to concur.
“That too, has been something of a triumph,” Ṧtante says. “Of course I’m happy with all the feedback I’m getting –from the critics as well as from the audience. It’s quite satisfying to hear we’ve achieved something special in terms of a Slovenian movie.”
In Slovenian with English subtitles, Consequences was given a limited theatrical release domestically through Uncork’d Entertainment, before it is made available on such digital platforms as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox and Fandango. Dish Network and other local cable providers have also made it available. For more information (including news of an impending DVD release,) check out its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Posledice. To see the trailer, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqlcYoMJj48&t=13s