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DVD Review

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Starring: Mateusz Kościukiewicz, Agnieszka Podsiadlik, Malgorzata Gorol and Roman Gancarczyk
Distributor: Bulldog Film Distribution
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 01 April 2019

Jacek is an easy-going young man, with an interest in heavy metal music and the love of his girlfriend. When a tragic accident befalls him, he undergoes Poland’s first full face transplant. Returning home, he does not encounter the welcome he was expecting…

MUG (Twarz. 2018. 1 hr, 27 min, 53 sec) is a Polish drama, directed by Małgorzata Szumowska. The film won the Jury Grand Prix at the 68th Berlin International Film Festival.

Twarz means face in Polish, I’m not sure why they chose the harsher English version to call the film Mug, as it has other, more negative connotations.

Jacek (Mateusz Kościukiewicz) works on a construction site where they are building the world’s biggest Jesus. Even before his accident he is viewed as a bit of an oddball, and though he has the love of his girlfriend he remains mostly apart from those he lives with.

Centrally the film deals with the hypocrisy inherent in the town. Prior to his transfiguration there is much said about love and unconditional positive regard for their fellow man, but this is something which they fail to live up to when he returns with a new face and a new voice.

One thing you will notice is that the film's lensing is novel. The picture is sharp at its centre but gradually softens as you reach the periphery of the screen. This was done deliberately so that the picture reflected the way that human sight works. It works surprisingly well to give the film a dream-like quality.

For all their protestations of inclusiveness Jacek’s experience of his town are almost wholly negative. He also struggles to reconcile his new identity, he no longer looks or sounds like himself, all that externally defined him has been stripped away. Although this brings him tragedy, Szumowska never lets the film stray into the realms of mawkishness.

What hasn’t been stripped is his spirit or sense of the absurd. This is especially funny when his mother, fearing that the face may have come from a pervert, is worried that her son may now be a pervert. In order to rectify the matter, she gets Jacek exorcized.

In the end it is not Jacek who comes over as a freak but the townsfolk. Mateusz Kosciukiewicz gives a movingly understated performance as a man torn from within and without, but never letting his spirit or sense of individuality be crushed.

The film comes with burned-in English subtitles and audio options for either a 2.0 or 5.1 audio track. There are no extras on the disc.


Charles Packer

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