Slovenian Director Dominik Mencej Readies ‘Aberrant Bride’

Slovenian director Dominik Mencej will put the motorbikes aside after his 90s-set road movie “Riders,” focusing on a female protagonist next. Once again set in the past, his new project “Aberrant Bride” will revolve around an “imported” young wife from Croatia, coming into a new environment and a new family, led by her husband’s domineering mother.

“It’s similar but different,” says Mencej.

“There is no open road, just a forest next to the house, but it’s also about this sense of belonging. I guess I can’t figure out how to tell a story with cellphones and social media. I don’t know how to make a perfect film for this era. At least not yet.”

But the present still can be felt in his Sarajevo title “Riders,” produced by Staragara, Antitalent, Novi Film, Transmedia Production, Sense Production and Nu Frame.

“A comment about the past can turn into a comment about what we are experiencing today. Just like when a character says that one day, there won’t be any borders in Europe,” he says, recalling the time of hope depicted in the film.

“In 1999, Clinton came to Slovenia. We all thought: ‘Oh, we are finally moving forward.’ I was still very young, younger than the guys in the film, but the world started opening up. The war was ending. There is a bit of nostalgia for that time, sure.”

When his two protagonists, childhood friends Tomaž and Anton (Timon Šturbej and Petja Labović) finally leave their small village behind, they also feel something better is waiting around the corner. But Mencej wanted “Riders” to be melancholic, if not outright sad.

“I will always take melancholy over depression,” he says.

“Slovenian films tend to be quite depressing, there are all these tragedies and people who are struggling under harsh conditions. Which I don’t mind generally, but we are ready to see lighter films too. I wanted to show characters who are very nonchalant about heavy subjects.”

Stuck in the old ways, or so they fear, they try to escape – also their overbearing mothers.

“These boys want to become better people than their parents. Or their fathers. They are just starting to understand their problems.”

“They might not be able to fix them just yet, but they decide to go away for a day, just for a while, and then it just keeps on going. It’s always like that, with our carefully laid out plans going right out the window.”

As their journey continues, the differences between old friends grow even bigger. Making for an “odd dynamic,” explains Mencej.

“In their villages, they are both outcasts. They are alone, so naturally they get together. But they are certainly not a perfect match. It’s a buddy movie where the buddies can also go their separate ways. Not because of the conflicts, but because it’s time for them to start their own lives.”

Mencej doesn’t hide his love for road movies in the film, mentioning Wim Wenders’ work, “Easy Rider” (“But of course!”) or even David Lynch’s “The Straight Story,” which came out in 1999 too.

“The good ones really stick with me,” he says.

“I like when the characters are not just stuck in one place, when they can move around. Usually, they can’t escape their surroundings – that’s where the drama comes from. In these films, they can always go someplace else. Only to realize they can’t escape themselves.”

But the whole story started from the tradition of blessing the motorbikes, witnessed by his producer one day.

“It was the most bizarre thing. Apparently, it’s happening all over Slovenia. After Easter, you get your bike blessed by a priest and then you can ride safely. Just in time for the spring season.”

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