Absurdistan (First Run Features, NR)

film_absurdistan_sm.jpgAbsurdistan sometimes resembles nothing so much as a class project of the United Nations High School.







Temelko (Maximilian Mauff) and Aya (Kristýna Maléřová) were destined for each other since they were born on the same day, 14 years ago. Now ready to transition from children at play to young lovers, they seek out advice from Aya’s grandmother (Nino Chkheidze), whose astrological divinations establish a seven-day period which would be the optimum window during which to consummate their relationship. And what a coincidence: the necessary alignment of the stars will not occur for four years, giving Temelko a chance to continue his education and Aya a chance to grow up a bit more.

There’s one other requirement: Temelko and Aya must bathe immediately before taking this next step into adulthood. Normally, that would be no problem, but they live in Absurdistan, a small and arid mountain village located somewhere in central Eurasia, close by the states of Quirk and Magical Realism.

Absurdistan relies on a single pipeline to deliver water, and over the years it has fallen into disrepair and the town water supply has accordingly become unreliable. The men of the village are too lazy to repair it; in fact, they seem to be too lazy to do much of anything other than engage in man’s favorite sport. Finally, the women of Absurdistan have had enough of doing the men’s work as well as their own (does this sound familiar to anyone?) and pull a Lysistrata: no water, no sex.

This proclamation does get the men’s attention, although not sufficiently to motivate them to fix the pipeline. The war between the sexes escalates as the women erect a Green Line down the center of the town, protected by razor wire and enforced by a crew of rifle-wielding vigilantes. When Temelko returns from the city where’s he’s been studying conservation, he finds the men uninterested in his proposed water use reforms, and Aya’s solidarity with the other women leaves her disinclined to return his affections until the water supply problem is solved. Meanwhile, the astrological clock is ticking and Temelko is driven to great (and possibly dangerous) lengths to try to restore the town’s water before the propitious time for his congress with Aya has passed.

Shot in the former Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan with a German director and a cast and crew with origins from Morocco to the Czech Republic to Japan, Absurdistan sometimes resembles nothing so much as a class project of the United Nations High School. If the whimsy sometimes gets a bit thick or the plot overly repetitious, on the whole director Veit Helmer and Cinematographer George Beridze have created a charming comic fable with a distinctive look and feel whose best quality is its deliberate juxtaposition of many visual styles. Sometimes the village looks like an antique postcard come to life, at other times like outtakes from a lost Marx Brothers film or an overly precious PBS documentary. The two leads are as charming as can be; 86-year-old Chkheidze gives a hilariously self-aware performance as Aya’s grandmother, and a jazzy soundtrack by Shigeru Umebayashi underlines the fanciful nature of the story. | Sarah Boslaugh

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