Home » Aberrance

There are very few people who can claim to be knowledgeable in Mongolian national cinema, a country that lies above China and below Russia. The buzz surrounding a Mongolian movie at the Cannes Film Festival in early 2023 meant it could represent the next shock wave that the world never envisaged. The landlocked nation’s history of Asia’s reputation is pretty deep; starting from those grassy plains were Xiongnu and Mongol Empire originated. It is evident that despite being a satellite state of the USSR, Russian cinema has been influential in Mongolia hence its movies often look more like those of Russia than anything else. Only some films from Mongolia have ever gained worldwide attention over the years especially after the democratic revolution, but Aberrance may be able to change this status quo.

The first Mongolian horror movie released in American theaters domestically was Aberrance. There has been an outbreak of East Asian horror movies but there hasn’t been any horror from Mongolia yet. The film premiered at Oldenburg and later screened at SXSW by Baatar Batsukh who had worked as a cinematographer before becoming a director. Although this serves as his first time to direct, Batsukh cannot hide his background in cinematography even when watching movies half-heartedly as this one. Some horror films may fail to visually entice their audience, but not this beautified horror.

This is an enigmatic movie about two people who go for relaxation time into the backwoods only to find themselves amidst something unseen before them anywhere else. Trusting anybody isn’t easy anymore as things speed up towards the end of the film. In contrast, others might not be satisfied with how it unfolds because it can be difficult to follow given its short running time while still maintaining interest on technical grounds.

Aberrance starts with an innocent premise: Selenge (Selenge Chadraabal) is going off with her husband Erkhmee (Erkhembavar Ganbat) to the snowy mountains, and when they arrive there everything seems more idyllic compared to the city they have come from. They walk through the home, Erkhmee points out how nice everything is, and how Selenge even has an art studio here. Because of the peace in the snow surrounding them this cabin will be a perfect moment for them to relax and awaken their deepest creativity—until that same silence turns deafening, leads Selenge screaming in the bathtub with muffled sound done by water.

The first hint is the young couple’s relationship itself. Erkhmee approaches Selenge as she roams around their cabin and reminds her that she needs to take her medicine. This becomes a repeated occurrence throughout the movie and is even more manifest when Selenge undresses for the first time revealing her body filled with bruises, with a protruding spine clearly showing how violent things have become. There are other instances too which seem out of place. A crow sitting on the windowsill scares Selenge as soon as she opens the curtains and she flinches backward. She goes outside momentarily and sees an animal’s bloody carcass only for Erkhmee to find her in shock at what she has seen.

Similarly, there is something abnormal that his neighbor next door also realizes and chooses to personally investigate it alone. The director begins developing more concepts as additional characters enter and leave the story line. Hence, these city dwellers who come seeking respite from their urban lives will inevitably confront rural counterparts who will question them from ideological perspective forcing morality to be debated about. It thus follows that people may perceive things differently some times, depending on how one looks at a particular situation.

At 75 minutes long, Aberrance feels too loose and lacking narrative structure in its latter stages; this is despite its ending point being very near. The present form of Aberrance raises more questions than it answers because it does not give any explanations to anything that happens in it. Aberrance is a project with great aspirations behind it which, regrettably, leads into this ambition instead of realizing it fully. It twists so much beyond recognition but still beautiful forget where it started.

Even though this film was overly ambiguous at some point when nothing could be made out properly since Batsukh comes from cinematography background he was able to make Aberrance visually thrilling enough. This setting is within a country cottage set amidst snow-covered woods, with just an adjacent neighbor who may or may not be stalking them. The actors in the film are excellent as they play their roles such that one is unable to understand their motives properly. In the beginning scenes of the movie, from his appearance on-screen and demeanor, it seems like a pervert stalker; he is presented in such a way that makes him look like an oddball creep but these things are reversed later.

The first part of Aberrance works very well. It introduces us to the characters and suggests possible developments from their problems and there is always a ticking sound in the background. However when conflict bursts out and then horror elements fall like a house of cards, this sense of direction does not seem clear for the movie anymore. That could be ok depending on what has happened earlier. But no one goes anywhere because it never had its feet on solid ground so maybe it would have been better if the film focused more on one theme than delving too much into another theme.

One of the end dedications and acknowledgements is for the American director and filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, which brings some light as to why things end up like that. When I watch Aberrance, one of the films that pops into my mind is Mother!, especially if you are at its climax. ABERRANCE does not by any means have a traditional ending; in fact it was released with controversy just like “mother!” In contrast, Aberrance plays it safe while being extremely deceitful.

Sometimes, however the movie tries to make itself interesting but not with substance because there are cases when style of film making and editing tends more towards artistic and visual aesthetics. As a result, we get a story without plot meat where time dialogue seems wooden or stiff at point. Some of the deeper parts also happen only through implication rather than being said out loud as everyone may not appreciate such subtlety. It might feel frustrating for some people, particularly when it comes to how elements of horror have been incorporated into it.

On account of this script being flimsy throughout also diminishes its horror effect. The beginning wants to bring about little jump scares but instead provide terror on Selenge’s face. Jumping back fearfully from a raven or lingering over an entrance way making us wonder what could be behind doesn’t seem to create enough build up needed for tension. Its constant presence implies something is wrong with what would otherwise be normal occurrences in life which include arrival of friends and everyday happenings although never really crossing this boundary; each time they do anything together Erkhmee & Selenge seem tense even though nothing’s happened yet. Others might correctly appreciate that suspense while others may simply find it annoying.

For those interested in delving deep into Mongolian cinema and society, urban centers like Ulaanbaatar are rarely spoken about despite a section of this country still remaining nomadic today. However, Mongolia’s not about life therein or it doesn’t also pretend to be, even though this horror could be a unique perspective from which to explore other countries with their specific cultural issues.

There is no much chance for Mongolian cinema and filmmakers to hit the world stage especially if one considers the attention they receive in western cinemas. Good thing there are quite a few breathtaking moments in Aberrance. In this movie there are a number of visually striking scenes and Director’s future works look promising. Nonetheless, Aberrance loses itself in an overemphasis on style (including the soundtrack) and shallow plot that may easily be forgotten over time. On the contrary, Batsukh could be remembered as director of interest whereas film enthusiasts should watch out for his next films.

Watch free movies on Fmovies

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top