Mug (Twarz) **** (2018) | Berlinale 15-25 February 2018 | Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize

February 23rd, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Malgorzata Szumovska | Michal Englert | Cast: Mateuz Kosciukiewiczz, Agnieszka Podsiadlik | Drama | Pol |

In the latest salacious social critique of her homeland, filmmaker Malgorzata Szumovska captures the zeitgeist of rural Poland with a strangely moving story involving a scruffy metalhead builder who is forced to reevaluate his life after a tragic accident at work. 

Twarz means mug/face in Polish. And refers to the central character Jacek (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz), who still lives in the lakeside town of Świebodzin (Western Poland) with his provincial-minded and petty family. Despite intentions to move to London with his floozy fiancée Dagmara(Małgorzata Gorol), Jacek is put off by his brother in law’s zenophobic stance on things and Brexit doubts. Only his sister seems to be on his side.

Jacek is building something he believes in – the statue of Christ the King, which is currently the tallest representation in the World. But a dreadful fall derails his future and his face is so badly injured that he needs life-changing surgery: the local priest (Roman Gancarczyk), his fiancée Dagmara, and the rest of the family will have to chip in to expensive, ongoing medical bills for a man who may be quite different from the one they knew and loved. Even his mother (Anna Tomaszewska) refuses to accept his new look – which is by no means monstrous (cleverly photographed by Michal Englert who also co-wrote the script). But worse of all, Dagmara shuns him. Only his sister (a superb Agnieszka Podsiadlik) is there to help with his rehabilitation.

Szumovska masterfully manages the tonal nuances from realism to comic fantasy in a film that is competently performed, utterly compelling and thematically rich with its reflection on consumerism, identity and prejudice. She also reflects on religious belief an the nature of human suffering symbolised by Jacek’s dignified forbearance under the gaze of an all-seeing Jesus Christ. MT

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