Polish Cinema: Mug (Malgorzata Szumowska, 2018, Poland)

While Mug (Twarz) is by no means a perfect film, it is the most quirky and idiosyncratic of the three films I have seen from director Malgorzata Szumowska, and as a result it is the most interesting. While Mug finds Szumowska in similar territory as some of her prior films - the working class and rural part of Poland - Mug is more formally daring than those past efforts. We can even see this in the way the film is shot - each frame is only partially in focus, leaving the outer edges a blur. While this effect is a bit too on the nose, it nevertheless reflects the newly distorted vision of our protagonist Jacek, a metal-loving country worker who suffers a catastrophic accident while working on the world’s largest statue of Jesus.
The film is in fact inspired by a true life incident. A man did suffer a workplace accident building the tallest statue of Christ in Swiebodzin, Poland, and he did receive Poland’s first face transplant. Some reviewers on IMDb have angrily commented that the film does not reflect the reality of the situation - that the members’ of this man’s community helped him, and did not shun him as in Mug. This is ultimately not particularly significant, as the incident was clearly a launching point for Szumowska’s exploration of Poland, and not meant to reflect the actual events which occurred. 
While Mug is ultimately flawed in its overall message (we did not need a feature length film to tell us that people shun those who appear different), Szumowska nevertheless brings some humorous scenes to her allegorical melodrama. Her vision of Poland is hypercritical, and perhaps a bit too over-the-top, but it does have a basis in reality, and her targets - Poland’s new consumerism, the religious leadership in the country - are worth ridicule.


6/10

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