Posted by: Sally Ingraham | May 8, 2009


AbsurdistanDir. by Veit Helmer
Staring Kristyna Malérová, Max Mauff, and Nino Chkheidze

This perfectly lovely movie has been playing at the theater for the last couple of days, and even though I have been covering shifts for a traveling coworker, I still managed to see pretty much the whole thing.

It is about a little town “somewhere between Europe and Asia” where there is a serious water shortage. The women in the town, sick and tired of their men being too lazy to fix the rusted water pipe, go on a sex strike until something is done and water returns to the village. Two teenage lovers who have been waiting until the proper alignment of the stars to share their first night are frustrated by this turn of events, and the boy desperately comes up with various schemes to rectify the situation.

The film has very little dialogue, and reminded me of Buster Keaton’s work – the mix of serious plights with comic solutions. I loved the boy, Temelko. He was such a tangle of seductive goofiness, so innocent in his desire to woo Aya into his bed, and at the same time willing to risk life and limb for her happiness.

I explored the film’s website this morning and learned all kinds of interesting things. For instance, because there is hardly any dialogue the actors could be gleaned from all over the place. Casting directors from 28 different countries auditioned 2,800 people, and the cast members that were finally chosen came from Hungary, Portugal, the Czech Republic, France, Morocco, Macedonia, Latvia, and Azerbaijan among other places.

The screenplay (which is not based on the book of the same name by Gary Shteyngart, although having discovered it I want to read it!) was inspired by actual events, sort of. According to director Veit Helmer, he was reading a newspaper in a cafe in Berlin in 2001 when he came across a short piece about the Turkish village of Sirt. Apparently the women there were boycotting sex in order to get their men to fix the village’s broken water pipe. By 2003, when Helmer finally managed to visit the village in order to do research for the film he wanted to make, no one had the same story about the event. He decided to make up his own story, and thus Absurdistan.

Perhaps the coolest thing about the production of the film is that, because the locations were remote, Helmer gave workshops about filmmaking and trained people from the villages where he shot to become members of his crew. As a result several short films were produced, one of which went on to win awards.

If you’re in the mood for something light, sweet, and funny definitely check Absurdistan out. As for me, I want to find Helmer’s earlier film, Tuvalu, which is another nearly silent piece, more surreal perhaps, but I hope equally appealing.


  1. “not based on the book of the same name by Gary Shteyngart”

    Ah, good to know! That’s exactly what I thought it was, so thanks for the heads-up! 🙂

  2. I picked the book up the other day, but it looks like I’m not in the mood for it right now so I’ll save it for another time. Have you read it?

  3. I’ve heard both good and bad about it, so I’m planning on starting with his Russian Debutante’s Handbook (which I’ve heard almost only good things about) to see if I like the style.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: