Kebab & Horoscope: An accomplished black comedy with an absurdist twist
by Vladan Petkovic
- Grzegorz Jaroszuk's debut feature certainly lightened the atmosphere and raised some smiles in the East of the West competition
Polish writer-director Grzegorz Jaroszuk's first feature film, Kebab & Horoscope [+see also:
film profile], refreshed the East of the West competition at Karlovy Vary. With protagonists who are lost in their own lives, revolving around a carpet shop, the film weaves a story of loneliness and the search for love in the form of a black, absurdist comedy.
The opening scene in a kebab house introduces us to the two main characters who will be the driving force behind the story: Kebab (Bartlomiej Topa) has just quit his job in said fast-food shop, spurred on by his horoscope that week in his favourite nature magazine. And the author of the horoscope is sitting right there, at the next table: Horoscope (Piotr Zurawski), who has just lost his job at the publication.
The pair team up as marketing experts (who needs an education if you're getting money for old rope?), and their first gig is to help a carpet shop get back on its feet. They start coaching the staff, comprising the dull Boss (Andrzej Zielinski), who hardly shows a desire to do anything besides lifting weights; sugar-addicted Janitor (Janusz Michałowski), who is there “only for the camaraderie”; emotionally lost Cashier (Barbara Kurzaj); pretty but ambitionless Salesgirl (Justyna Wasilewska); and Electrician, who has a fear of electricity (Tomek Schuchardt).
It is clear that helping this crew would be a hopeless task even for the best marketing experts, and the director introduces side characters such as Salesgirl’s mother, who is looking for the love of her life whose name she has forgotten; a Japanese man who wants to commit suicide in Poland, whom Cashier found on the internet; and Electrician’s wife, who fully goes along with his passion for football in the hope that he will actually love her.
The search for love and loneliness are the real subject matter of the film, cleverly masked as a black comedy. The visual style consists mostly of static shots by DoP Magnus Borge, frequently extended beyond their expected duration by editor Aleksandra Gowin to provide room for deadpan, absurdist humour that sometimes harks straight back to Monty Python.
Kebab & Horoscope, produced by MD4 and handled internationally by New Europe Film Sales, is sure to have a fine run on the festival circuit as an accomplished comedy lasting a brisk 72 minutes – programmers around Europe will rejoice at the opportunity to lighten up their usually bleak selections.