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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Absurdistan (2008)

There is currently a German Film Festival on in London (an annual event which I have never previously attended) and I noted in the prospectus that the above film was made by the director of "Tuvalu" (1999), an absolutely enchanting, nearly silent fantasy (my review is in the archives at http://prettypinkpattyspictures.blogspot.com/). The director is Veit Helmer and to be honest I am totally unfamiliar with the remainder of his output, but after finding myself equally beguiled with his latest flick, I am obliged to check out the others.

What I was not expecting at a German film festival was a movie filmed in Azerbaijan with Russian dialogue. The director introduced the film and said that he searched widely for an idyllic village in which to set his tale and that it is sheer happenstance that the setting ended up as it did. Inspired by a small item he noted in a newspaper some years ago about the town of Surd where the women went on sexual strike to protest the fact that their menfolk had not maintained the water pipe to the village (reminiscent indeed of the Greek play "Lysistrata"), he renamed this scenario Ab-surd-istan and fantasised the bare bones of the tale. Two children born on the same day have been soulmates ever since, going through a wonderful engagement at age four and a mock marriage ceremony at age eight. As teenagers they can not wait to consummate their feelings for each other, but the girl's grandmother, who reads the stars, forecasts an auspicious date for them some four years in the future! The lad is sent away for training and returns before the due date, only for his betrothed to refuse him if he is unable to restore water to the village -- and there are only six days for their stars to be in the ideal conjunction. The further backstory is that the women of the town are the real workers and the men are a bunch of layabouts who only fancy their macho sexual prowess -- and this is told with great humour and a terrific assortment of expressive characters. Inspired by the girl's determination, they too withhold their favours until everything is put right. This outline doesn't half do justice to the charm of the story nor to the fantastical efforts of the young swain to win his beloved. This, like "Tuvalu" before it, is a film that deserves a wide audience, but one which it is regretfully unlikely to find outside the arthouse circuit. And more's the pity says PPP!
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