Film Review: Mug

Polish cinema finds itself in a very strange place at the moment. On the one hand, there are film-makers such as Pawel Pawlikowski, who with Ida and Cold War has produced two of the best European films of the last decade. Conversely, there has been a noticeable level of mainstream success from homegrown cinema of late, most notably with the Pitbull films.

Poland has been riven by internal strife since entering the EU but there hasn’t been the greatest appetite to address these themes on screen. With the likes of Silent Night and Clergy in the last year there seems to be a real impetus to tackle many of the social and economic problems within the country. Malgorzata Szumowska’s new film Mug sets its sights on religion and tradition.

Jacek (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz) is very happy with his lot. He loves his girlfriend (Malgorzata Gorol) and his dog but Jacek’s real passion is heavy metal music. In his hometown, he’s viewed as a likeable village idiot by fellow parishioners. Whilst working on a construction site building the world’s tallest statue of Jesus, tragedy strikes. He becomes the first recipient of a facial transplant in Poland and as a result a national celebrity.

Mug juggles with high concepts of spirituality, religion and commerce to create an absurdist fable about the power of the human spirit and the modern bane of materialism. The townsfolk are painted as grotesque gargoyles, determined to take advantage of Jacek’s misfortune. Despite pretences of piety they’re determined to exploit his situation for personal gain. Mug is an offbeat and irreverent portrait of modern Poland.

Mug is out in cinemas from 7 December.

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