Absurdistan (Абсурдистан)
Made in: Germany, filmed in Azerbaijan
Language: I don't know, but the version I saw was dubbed in Russian
Director: Veit Helmer
Starring: Kristyna Malerova, Max Mauff, Nino Chkheidze
Year: 2008

Synopsis: In a small, isolated town in Azerbaijan (after the fall of the Soviet Union), young sweethearts Aya (Kristyna Malerova) and Temelko (Max Mauff) come of age.

Aya's grandmother (Nino Chkheidze), who possesses astrological wisdom, reads the alignment of the stars and tells the youngsters that they have a five day window in which to consummate their romance.

However, their plans go awry when the pipeline that feeds the small town's water supply is damaged. The men of the town, once historically well-known for their bravery, have become lazy and indifferent to the problem. Frustrated, the women band together and go on a sex strike in an effort to motivate the men to repair the pipe.

This only exacerbates the problem as the sex-starved men go to great lengths to alleviate their needs (and prolong their laziness). Frightened by the prospect of losing his love, Temelko must find a solution within five days.

The Good: Absurdistan is light, creative, and contains some pretty good laughs. Kristyna Malerova and Max Mauff are likeable, and the casting of the townsfolk is well done.

The humor is genuine (as opposed to self-conscious and superficial), the story is focused, and the pace is never too slow. The premise is funny, and sex themes are never unnecessarily crass.

There's very little dialogue throughout the film, with most of the information begin relayed to the audience through voiceover, action, and editing.

The Bad: Although the "absurd" element of Absurdistan is well-established in the beginning, it doesn't hold for very long. The expectation of zaniness and fairy tale magical realism becomes inconsistent. Mostly, the film gets told in a rather straightforward fashion via a logical sequence of events.

One can argue that the nonsensical elements at the end can qualify as "absurd" in the artistic sense, but the viewer can also interpret said absurdity as flawed filmmaking.

Who would like this film: Absurdistan has an indie-look that will appeal to those who are already experienced with art-house cinema and foreign films.

The film isn't extraordinary, but it's competently made and gives us a good look at the beauty of Azerbaijan's countryside. Overall, it's a good example of how a tightly written story can be told using images rather than dialogue.

(2 and 1/2 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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