Dustin Chang contributed to this story.
SEDUCE ME (dir. Janko Mandic, Slovenia)
With cheers and a cake, Luka (Janko Mandic) moves out of a youth home where he spent the last 9 years of his life. He finds a lodging and a job at a slaughterhouse with the help of a social worker. His emotionless mother is still alive but he's not in a hurry to see her. At the job, he befriends Ajda (Nina Rakovec), a foreman's daughter who is working there because she has to pay her abusive dad back for the new car she just bought. And the foreman is none too happy about their relationship. Ajda is a thrill seeker and only wants pleasure in life which suits young Luka fine at first, but her willful disinterests in his life and background rubs him the wrong way. While she undresses him, he protests that they don't know anything about each other.
Luka has a good head on his shoulders and a good heart, and is tasting adulthood for the first time. I'm pretty sure Mandic's natural boyish presence will bring out strong paternal/maternal instincts out in the audience. Just like Antoine Doinel and many others before him, Luka makes you root for him as he struggles through life's many incongruities.
The setting of Seduce Me is not a glamorous one. Drab scenery in Ljubljana, Slovenia is seen through the windows of the bus which Luka takes to his even more depressing job. It contrasts with the beautiful forest seen from the train as Luka visits his mother. I interpret the title as Luka crying out for the life ahead of him, the lure of his future. However drab his circumstances are, we know that he is too good and earnest for it and deserves something better. It reminded me strongly of Atmen (Breathing) by Karl Markovics, from a couple of years back. They both are about a good youth trying to survive something called adulthood. Seduce Me is a beautifully written and directed feature film debut by Marko Santic. I'd love to see more from him. - Dustin Chang