- Directed by Veit Helmer
- Written by Veit Helmer,Zaza Buadze, Gordan Mihic and Ahmet Golbol
- Starring Maxmilian Mauff and Kristyna Malerova
- Classification: NA
And now for something completely different: Absurdistan is an Eastern Bloc sex comedy, set in a desert village, told mostly in pantomime, accompanied by a tipsy jazz soundtrack and deadpan narration. One more disarming bit of colour: The film's young male hero, Temelko, speaks like a Khrushchev-era apparatchik promoting agrarian reform.
"I was selected to herald a new age in the village," he drones at one point.
Absurdistan would seem within camel's reach of Borat's hometown in Kazakhstan. Women here work 24/7, taking care of the village's smelting needs and all civic repairs. Men, not so much. Even the rooster doesn't crow before 10 in the morning.
Sex and lots of it keeps Absurdistan happy. The men, though unclean and spectacularly lazy, take great pride in their sexual prowess. And with some justification. Wives and girlfriends perform chores with glowing contentment, glad for the hourly interruptions.
Then a problem - a Freudian worriment: The rigid pipe that keeps the desert village humming, transporting fluids needed for smelting and baking, goes dry. At first, there is a trickle. Then nothing.
Ah, it'll come back on, the men figure. The women, though, are furious. Rigid, functioning pipes are a man's job, right? So the ladies, led by Temelko's virgin bride, Aya, go on strike. No pipe, no water - no sex.
And they mean it. Fighting breaks out: a clash that seems more inspired by famed American cartoonist James Thurber's The War Between Men and Women than Borat . There are skirmishes in barns. Rifles drawn in bed. Kidnappings. Male spies infiltrating enemy lines disguised in curvy watermelon rinds.
All of which is made more funny by German director Veit Helmer's ( Tuvalu ) casting. If you're going to make a near-silent comedy, you better hire funny-looking people. And Absurdistan abounds with wonderful faces and physiques - buffalo-headed men wagging panting-dog tongues and saucy, Rubenesque women with great throaty laughs.
At the heart of the battle is the one-on-one between Temelko (Maxmilian Mauff) and Aya (Kristyna Malerova). Just a young couple, they are more idealistic than their elders. Beautiful, irrepressible Anya believes in love. Temelko is an earnest inventor who wants to solve Absurdistan's drainage problem. And not just because he's still a virgin who needs to uncork the town's pipe to get his romance with Anya flowing again.
Malerova and Mauff make an intriguing, watchable couple. Her character is full of life. His is deathly afraid. And the rubbery-faced supporting cast are always great fun. But the real star of Absurdistan is director Helmer, a film lover who has managed to transform a childhood infatuation with silent film (particularly the work of Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd) into a gloriously inventive social comedy.
That it works so well remains something of a mystery - one that perhaps we shouldn't try too hard to explain. After all, one should never look a gift camel in the mouth.
Special to The Globe and Mail
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