“Absurdistan” might take its title from a self-inflicted nickname for countries behind the collapsing Iron Curtain, but its antecedents are much older than that. This bawdy fairy tale could be described as what happens when Aristophanes meets Aesop, by way of Chaucer.
German filmmaker Veit Helmer’s Russian-language movie is a farcical reimagining of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata. In a village in an unnamed former Soviet satellite — “Absurdistan” was filmed in Azerbaijan — the women tend to get things done, while the men sit around philosophizing in the cafe all day before they come home to bed their wives.
The females don’t seem to mind this state of affairs that leaves them with all responsibility until the village water pipe quits working. “The men used many tricks to avoid repairing the pipe,” we discover. One drinks water out of a fishbowl; another relieves himself to relieve his car’s radiator.
Most affected by the drought are Aya (Kristyna Malerova) and Temelko (Maximilian Mauff). The young pair have been sweethearts since childhood. Her grandmother insists the best time for them to consummate their love is when certain stars are aligned, and they’ve been waiting years for the chance. When he returns from schooling in the city, he discovers Aya doesn’t smell quite as nice as he remembered: “Tomorrow, the stars were to bring me and Aya together. But only if we bathed beforehand.”
The clever young man actually manages to find enough water for them to do so. It’s not good enough for Aya. She says she’s “on strike” until he solves the water problem for the entire village. Her solution catches on, and every woman in the village declares, “No water, no sex.”
“Absurdistan” is by turns charming and childish. The off-color humor won’t appeal to everyone. (The men try to phone over some prostitutes, but their wives won’t have it.) This mostly wordless comedy keeps a light touch throughout, though, and actually turns out to be rather sweet thanks to the charms of its two baby-faced leads.
Once you’ve seen 20 minutes of this film, you can pretty much predict where it’s going to go and how it’s going to get there. There’s little doubt, however, that you’ll chuckle heartily along the way.
RATING: Not rated (nudity, sexual situations)
CREDITS: Directed by Veit Helmer. Written by Gordan Mihic, Zaza Buadze, Ahmet Golbol and Mr. Helmer.
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
WEB SITE: firstrunfeatures.com/absurdistan_synopsis.html
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS