Mug (Twarz)

Polish filmmaker Malgorzata Szumowska brings to the big screen a surprising tragicomedy about roots, obstacles and change

I’m quite sure that many people, like me, are used to a certain type of Polish cinema: slow, filled with sadness, often dealing with the horrific legacy of the Second World War. The great thing about cinema is that it was born to tell different stories and to defeat preconceptions. This is the case of Mug (Twarz), a tragicomedy by Malgorzata Szumowska that won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 edition of the Berlinale.

Born in 1973, Szumowska explores life in the Polish hinterland through a tale of roots, obstacles and change. Inspired by true events (which only provide the setting), the film is a work of fiction.

Mug tells the story of Jacek, a young man who loves heavy metal and his dog: he lives in a small town in Poland and he works on a building site close to the Polish-German border, where he helps shaping the world’s larger statue of Jesus. He spends his free time using the country lanes as racing tracks while driving his little car, he loves horse-riding and hanging out with his girlfriend Dagmara. However, Jacek dreams to move to London with the love of his life. To his conservative family and the entire community he’s a misfit with impossible ambitions, except for his sister and his grandfather who always support him. For Jacek, everything changes due to a terrible accident that leaves him disfigured: he’s meant to be the first person in Poland to receive face transplant. As he recovers, the media celebrates him as a national hero, while Jacek is forced to accept his new condition and reconsider his old relationships.

Szumowska, who also wrote the film, unmasks the hypocrisy of a small-minded community obsessed with religion and tradition: Jacek, always treated as an eccentric, is suddenly celebrated as a star by his peers, who never really change their mind. The man slowly turns his accident into an opportunity to learn something more about himself and about his family: through his face (before and after the accident), the polish director invites the audience to boldly face their struggles, without losing hope.

Mug mixes sour farce, dark comedy and drama in a very delightful way, revealing Poland’s cultural clash between generations, without forgetting the roots. The film stars Mateusz Kościukiewicz (who phenomenally plays Jacek), Agnieszka Podsiadlik, Malgorzata Gorol. Mug debuts in Italy on April 24, 2019.

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