Twarz, translated as “mug”, explores more than just the deformation of Jacek’s face (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz) after his tragic, yet miraculous survival of an accident on a construction site. It is seen as nothing short of a miracle in the eyes of his deeply catholic village, as he falls backwards into the giant body of Christ, a statue built with the people’s unrivalled devotion, Polish nationalism and their absurd expression of religiosity. Jacek loses not only his face but his fiancé (Malgorzata Gorol) who cannot see past his deformity, nor beyond her mother’s myopic prejudices, despite the transplant and his subsequent notoriety.
The film humorously unveils the degree of superstition and lack of education reflected in the archaically shared belief system of the villagers. Exorcisms and ecclesiastic evaluations of where Christ should be looking or showing his “best side” punctuate other more stylised scenes of awkward and inappropriate dancing to bad 90s dance music and death metal. A touching sense of family is felt between Jacek and his older sister (Agnieszka Podsiadlik) who is a cynical and clever figure remonstrating against the odd dynamics of his other relations. We also watch Jacek face (in another sense) the cruelty of the State in its unsympathetic demands for him to return to work uncompensated. A somewhat limited life worsened.
There is an interesting use of focus that foregrounds the faces of the figures of whom the camera invites us to look at, fuzzing out the edges and background into an undifferentiated haze. Is the face the only way that one can constitute love, understand another or find a deep spiritual connection? Are we still looking for icons? Perhaps on or beyond the LCD widescreen as the opening scene – looking more like the “Last Judgment” than a product sale – attests. Writers Michal Englert and Malgorzata Szumowska make light of such questions but explore them astutely all the same.
Text: Jodie McNeilly-Renaudie
First published: January 25, 2019