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  Mug Facing Up
Year: 2018
Director: Malgorzata Szumowska
Stars: Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Agnieszka Podsiadlik, Malgorzata Gorol, Roman Gancarczyk, Dariusz Chojnacki, Robert Talarczyk, Anna Tomaszewska, Martyna Krzysztofik, Iwona Bielska, Juliusz Chrzastowski, Tadeusz Mikiewicz, Marek Kalita
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jacek (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz) lives in rural Poland, working on the building site near his village where a very special statue is being built. It has taken many of the locals to be employed to construct what is to be the largest Jesus Christ in the world, beating even the one in Rio de Janeiro, but this does not make Jacek a pious follower of the Christian faith as he still loves his heavy metal music, which he plays in his little red car as he speeds along the country roads. He is a happy-go-lucky sort whose love for his girlfriend Dagmara (Malgorzata Gorol) improves his life no end, but what if something unexpected happened which changed that life drastically?

If you did not know the twist in Mug, or Twarz as it was known in its original Polish, then even so you would have a sense of an ominous atmosphere no matter how full of joie de vivre its protagonist was: everyone around him, well, almost everyone, is a negative character, dwelling on the petty, the prejudiced, the bitter and angry. Not like our Jacek: he may not have a grand plan for his next few decades, but he is going to enjoy himself no matter what, or at least he is if he stays healthy. But co-writer and director Malgorzata Szumowska had other things in mind, he was to be a symbol, as much as the gigantic Christ for the Catholics of Polish society is meant to be.

But Jacek is a living person, who should matter more than a towering rendition in stone, yet somehow he does not. There were critics of this film for its depiction of the ordinary Poles as basically a bunch of bigoted morons who cling to their superstitions like a life raft, yet that was overlooking the director did not view them all like that, for Jacek was assuredly not, despite growing up among these small-minded folks he is generous of spirit and genuinely likeable. He has a perspective on life, where he doesn't take it too seriously in the faces of those who take it far too seriously to the extent of being obsessed with bringing everyone else down their miserable level.

Jacek is having none of this, he has seen what, for instance, his sister (Agnieszka Podsiadlik) has been through in her marriage, chained to one of the biggest boors around who will never be mistaken for a ray of sunshine, seeing the worst in everyone and never more satisfied than when he has pointed that out. But Jacek has Dagmara, who affirms his force of positivity and has you certain he has a soulmate who will complete him, which sounds corny but applies here... so what about that ominous feeling that you have been noting throughout the first act? You would be well advised to pay attention to that, for it as if the Christ statue has been surveying the landscape for miles around and spotted someone who doesn't need his piety and is dead set on punishing him for blithely flaunting his freedom.

Here is where Jacek meets his potential doom, and all while working on the construction of a statue it was clear the film had feelings about that were at best ambivalent and may even have gone as far as thoroughly sickened by when there were so many worthier causes the money spent on this could have gone towards. The Catholic Church was in for a kicking in Mug, implying that its followers were content with being endlessly judged and belittled for a place in Heaven that may not even exist, all while well aware that a little film from Poland was not going to change any minds: there was a playing to the gallery about this, not seeking to let the scales fall from the eyes of billions, to use a Biblical analogy. With the superstition and superficiality abounding, and only lip service paid to charity, we can be glad Jacek at least gets through his difficulties, a changed man, but retaining his belief in himself and despite it all, finding the goodness in others that even the Church may not acknowledge. Music by Adam Walicki.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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