2001-2010ComedyGermanyVeit Helmer

Veit Helmer – Absurdistan (2008)


“No water, no sex.” Whereas the women in Aristophanes’ classic Greek comedy Lysistrata withheld sex from their men to end a war, the women in the village of Absurdistan concoct a similar plan out of necessity in order to get their community’s water pipe fixed. However, unlike the women of Lysistrata, the results of their decision don’t end a war but rather begin one of epic proportions between the sexes complete with the usual devices of espionage, sabotage and tested loyalties.

…Though not strictly a silent movie, Veit Helmer’s latest is a delightful fable sans dialogue, like his well-traveled debut “Tuvalu.” Titular mountain village is so isolated that it’s been virtually forgotten, claimed by no country since perestroika. An underground water delivery system constructed generations ago now provides barely a trickle, and local men are too lazy to fix it. Fed up, their industrious wives strike at the one thing these virility-proud husbands can’t do without: Not only do they withhold sex, they create an “iron curtain'” separating the genders, and perform armed guerrilla maneuvers. Meanwhile, young Temelko (Maximilian Mauff) frantically tries to repair the pipe by himself, having been told his long-awaited deflowering of Aya (Kristyna Malerova) must take place during a current, short-term celestial alignment. Physical comedy, charmingly primitive f/x, robust perfs and imaginative design contribs make “Absurdistan” a treat for the eyes and funny bone.
Dennis Harvey, Variety

Helmer’s gift for finding great faces is impressive indeed, and there’s a grand, lumpy eloquence in his schlubby men and strong-willed women that suggests he isn’t exaggerating when he says he visited 28 countries looking for the perfect townspeople for his village — a lot of work must have gone into finding the right faces to tell this tale, and it pays off. Helmer demonstrates a tremendous knack for visual storytelling, embracing a style that’s fluid and imaginative without calling attention to itself, and his compositional feel suggests an inspired fusion of Buster Keaton, Federico Fellini, and Stanley Kubrick; Helmer may have made a film that’s (almost) without dialogue, but the final product feels timeless rather than rooted in the pre-Vitaphone era.

…Shot with a scratchy, faux-vintage look, as if the film was found packed away in a trunk, “Absurdistan” has a timelessness to it; though we see a few cars and stereo headphones, this does seem to be a place that modern culture forgot. In this village, no rooster crows before 10 o’clock, and the various businesses — a baker, a barber — operate in dusty low-tech fashion. Initially everything is very pretty, with soft, watery colors, but as the plumbing crisis continues, the village grows dun- colored and desperate. Even a goldfish gasps from his barely thumb-deep allotment of water. Things sort themselves out, as fairy-tale problems have a way of doing; water soon gushes back into the village, and the lines drawn in its sand are erased. “Absurdistan” has more than a little bit of magic at its heart; it’s a tale of love and perseverance, gently winking at its happy viewers.


Subtitles:English & Greek sub/idx muxed

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