Twarz shows everything stereotypical about small Polish village. However, we also find here other aspects about Polish culture in generall. The most important is the background story: building of the biggest status of Jesus Christe in the world. This Post contains some spoilers so watch out if you don’t like to know a lot about the movie before watching it!
I saw Twarz by Małgorzata Szumowska in the cinema. Very rare but yes, it’s a Polish movie which got a German distributor: Grandfilm Verleih. The main reason for this was probably the Silver Bear Jury Grand Prix during Berlinale in 2018. The movie was screened in the German cinemas one year later. Once I found DVD in the library, I watched it once again mainly to write about it on the blog. I was surprised to find out how the movie caught my attention again, even though I knew exactly what will happen next. It doesn’t happen often! Moreover it inspired me for a new way on how I could approach this blog. I started to watch Polish movies probably mainly because of sentiment and the wish to specialize in one area of the world’s cinematogrpahy. I can’t say the same about the readers of this blog and I also realized how much these movies tell about our culture or even our history. So here it is, new goal for this blog: not only critics but mostly highlighting these points (culture, histor, lifestyle), which others could have missed.
Twarz is a fiction based on two true stories. Does a city Świebodzin tells you something? This is where the highest statue of Jesus Christ was built and it’s the main background of the events. Jacek (Mateusz Kościukiewicz) lives in a small village (the movie doesn’t refer to the Świebodzin directly) and works on the construction of the statue. He still lives with his parents and grandparens as well as his sister, brother-in-law and nephew. He’s in a happy relationship, in love with a girl from a neighbouring village, and driven by his belief in define his own lifestyle. His positive attitude annoys the family. We see it during a really great Christmas scene and wishes which he gets from everyone. The scene is nothing more than the Polish reality: you need to share your wishes with everyone and sometimes you say or receive “the standards” like “be healthy, get married, get a child”. Meaningful is also the scene discussing Jacek’s idea about emigration. Since Poland joined EU in 2014 a lot of Poles emigrated and this is reference to this situation.
Jacek’s belief in good life will be put to the test as he suffers from severe accident. As a result he undergoes series of complicated operations with a goal of transplanting the face. The doctors succeed and Jacek needs to adjust to his new life. This is the second true story the movie was based on. Szumowska and her cinematographer, Michał Englert, were inspired by the first face transplantation in Poland made for Grzegorz Galasiński. He agreed to talk with Szumowska and Englert, who also inspired their screenplay in some way. Thus for example the help which Jacek gets from his sister is based on a real relationship between Galasiński and his sister.
By watching it for the second time I realized how many references there are to the Polish culture. The very first scene relates to real sale of one super cheap product. It’s kind of like Black Friday just it can happen whenever the supermarket decides to introduce this promotion. Such actions started to be popular around 10 years ago. Obviously no one get’s so crazy like in the movie (people do keep they clothes on) but yes, they wait hours in front of the store just to be the first ones. There were also incidents of injured people, which surprisingly the movie doesn’t show. But did the image at the end of the helpless woman also stayed in your mind?
Poland in this movie is very sad, grey and unfriendly. It’s Poland which usually foreigners have in mind when they think about us and Poland which slowly doesn’t exist in other places. Kraków, Warszawa or Wrocław are moe and more “in”. One can’t say it about the small Polish villages. People are rather not keen on changes here. I wasn’t surprised that there was a horse-drawn cart in one of the scenes or (unfortunately) three drunk men trying to buy more alcohol.
At first Jacek is a sensation, his story serves as a great material for TV news. Szumowska invited a real Polish reporter, Krzysztof Ibisz, who played himself. He really works for one of the Polish TV channels and yes, probably the one which would make a story based on such events.
People like to talk and if they get a chance, they like to diminish others life. It happened also to Grzegorz Galasiński, who suffered from hate and even jealousy. The movie shows his problems with getting financial help from the state and this is what he still struggles with: he doesn’t receive even reimbursement for the medicines. There’s a perfect scene describing the fight with Polish bureaucracy and such fight happens not only in a medical field. Worth noticing is that even though we talk here about Poland, such hatress is a universal topic.
Religion is more important in a small village than in the city thus church becomes a place for socializing. However, in the movie it still fulfills also its main function of providing help. Jacek and his girlfriend are laughing out religious people but it’s priest who doesn’t turn away from Jacek.
There’s much more important movie touching this topic but I liked how Twarz showed crazy trend of the first Communion. I remember that it was always a bug event and very rarely was there a child who skiped it. It didn’t matter whether your parents had catholic life or not. The whole second grade spent their religious lessons on preparing for this event. Now it got even worse, you say, people are more sceptic about the church so it should change? No, it got worse. It was already bad as I attended first Communion: everyone was showing off with the gifts. Now the gifts you change are way more expensive and you need to book a restaurant in advance if you want to celebrate big. The movie showed it perfectly how many parents treat this event not as a spiritual, religious moment but a posibility to show off.
It should be “Face”
I must admit I have no idea why the English title is Mug. Twarz means face and is more polite than mug. We hear mug when children make a mock of Jacek but before that no one called him this way. It happens when his already kind of forgotten and no one cares about him anymore. Thus why not Face?
I realized that until now almost all the movies on this blog were summed up as worth watching. But! This should be one of your firsts. There’s something about this movie. There’s room for both artistic visions as well as a well-structured, true and inspiring story with important references to the Polish culture.