Aberrance 2023 Movie Review
Aberrance is a Mongolian psychological thriller by director Baatar Batsukh. Erkhmee and Selenge have retreated to a holiday home deep in the wilderness, keen to escape their lives in the city. Erkhmee seems determined to provide some peace and quiet for Selenge, but this seems at odds with the increasingly violent events their neighbour witnesses. But who can we trust? Who is the real danger lurking in the snow and the trees surrounding the isolated holiday home?
The answer to this question remains elusive throughout the film, right up to the final act. Aberrance is a sinuous film, taking the viewer through many possible plots. Could Erkhmee be an abusive husband? Is Selenge suffering from disturbing symptoms that make her a danger to herself and others? What about the neighbour, who seems determined to insert himself into the events taking place next door? Over the course of the film, we are kept guessing about what is going on. It is a reminder that things are not always as they appear, and we are left guessing about the complex relationships playing out on screen. Batsukh has commented on the intentional nature of this confusion, using the ever-shifting perceptions of the characters as a metaphor for the ways in which we all approach our lives, often choosing not to see, or to investigate, what we are presented with.
This is a small-cast, single-location film. Personally, I love films like this, as it allows us to dive deeper into the story, and see the characters develop. The acting is great, and the location is breathtaking, leading to a claustrophobic thriller that never lets up. The final reveal when it comes is suitably nihilistic, in line with Batsukh’s aim to shine a light on the evils of the world, and the ways in which we make ourselves complicit.
Aberrance is a twisty thriller sure to keep viewers guessing. Although it is possible to make the critique that the plot may have too many twists, leading to some plot holes and an ending that could feel out of place with the rest of the film. This is a relatively short feature, so there was scope to expand upon some of the threads. Despite this, Batsukh clearly has a great eye for visuals, and this is a beautiful film as a result. It is also inspiring to see such a well-crafted film made on a budget, and Batsukh has mentioned that he hoped to inspire others to see that you can still create art, even if you don’t have access to state-of-the-art equipment. There is also a clear sociopolitical message to the film, one that encourages viewers to be critical of, and push back against, corrupt systems that value profit over life, and allow evil to thrive.