Twarz demonstrates its absurd and vicious sensibilities from its very first opening frames. A small crowd has gathered outside a store that displays a sign advertising an underwear sale. But that’s not actually what is on sale, and the customers will receive hefty discounts if they in fact shop in their underwear. Clothes are ripped off and the now mostly naked customers stampede inside. In slow motion, their faces are grotesquely contorted in an orgy of consumerism, naked flesh heaving angrily as they fight over big screen TVs. It sets the tone for what is to follow, and Twarz is a film with bite.
Jacek (Mateusz Kościukiewicz) is young, individualistic and handsome. He’s imperfect, somewhat xenophobic, and has just become engaged to his girlfriend, Dagmara (Malgorzata Gorol). Funded by the faithful, work has begun to erect a statue of Jesus Christ on the hills overlooking the town – intended to be the largest in the world (based upon the real-life statue that was built in Świebodzin, Poland, and hasn’t exactly put the town on the map). While working on the project, Jacek has a truly horrific accident, hurtling from the top of the unfinished Jesus. Becoming the recipient of Poland’s first face transplant, he has to continue life with a brand new mug.
Twarz is highly critical of the contemporary Polish milieu, and in fact director Malgorzata Szumowska seems almost angry about it. The country has lurched to the political right in recent years, and the population’s intolerance along with the pitiless attitudes of the Catholic church are in Szumowska’s targets, and her weapon is sharp, scathing humour.
As Jacek, Mateusz Kościukiewicz is impeccable. Acting under prosthetic makeup, he’s only able to communicate in a grunting, guttural manner that even Polish speakers might need subtitles to comprehend. The film is hilarious, and manages to be provocative though with a sense of humility. The ending might seem abrupt, but upon reflection, it would have been thoughtless to end this gem in any other way.
Twarz (Mug) does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Twarz (Mug) here: