Pros: Quirky, chuckle-out-loud comedy, the absurdity and silliness of the mundane nicely emphasised by the complete absence of clothes.
Cons: Gawd that mundane world is soooo depressing!!!
I suppose someone just had to do it. It’s one of those ideas that is almost inevitable. That of taking a mundane real-world environment – in this case, a dreary little Polish office where very little work gets done among all the cattish gossip and low-grade slice-of-life tribulations – and throwing just one spectacular and unmissable spanner into the works of this reality . . . because, in a nutshell, everyone is naked. Yup – not a stitch of clothes to be seen anywhere. Not even on the TV. This is a nudist film – set in a world where clothes just . . . don’t exist. And where there is nothing odd about that at all.
Of course, this being mundane reality, this is no glamorised flesh. White floppy bellies and slightly wobbly backsides proliferate everywhere. Just like yours or mine. And it is this surreal reality that drives this film. One can of course use this as a kind of tool for all sorts of speculation about the cultural meaning of clothes or, better still, as a nice way of highlighting the lunacy of real life. I don’t quite know why it is, but people without clothes seem to have far less right or licence to behave stupidly than those with them – maybe because without clothes it is impossible to convey illusions about yourself. But one is left with a strong sense of displacement here and a startling realisation of just how alien and strange the normal discourses and intercourses of everyday life are. More so, I suspect, than if the same characters performed the same script fully clothed.
But all that high-brow speculation aside, there is a wonderful vein of sly and mischievous humour going on here. That feeling that one control slider in this reality has been jerked up to maximum – where everything is just a little bit more extreme than it should be. Where absurdity goes to its limits and the normal mayhem of the office is amplified. Not outrageously – indeed, it is all done with great subtlty and an admirable crescendo – but just enough to make you shake your head and laugh. It could be called a farce, in the good old sense of the word – a naked office farce. Pity the poor and much-pressed new girl, trying to transcribe several wardrobes-full of documents on a computer that keeps crashing, while at the same time continually having to make the tea and fetch and carry. Cringe at the colleague just back from a health spa, filled with tales of acupuncture and loosing weight. Giggle guiltily at the cattish discussions of fat canteen staff (not present at the time of course), annoying husbands or the current soap operas. Shrink in terror at the colleague who had to bring his kids in for the afternoon and what happens when they get their hands on the kitchen knives. And where has the boss got to and is he really suffering from rabies? And what the hell is this continual reoccurring reference to a bomb that nobody seems to pay any attention to?
The fact that the entire action takes place in one small room (and the corridor outside), along with the way that all the plot elements are so neatly bound up, make this feel almost like a stage play. This is perhaps helped by the fact that it is shot with a very informal camera, glancing around casually and right in there following the action just as though it was a person. Maybe there is a hint of Beckett in there, in that juxtaposition of mundane wittering with the surreal. Like Beckett also is that blend of humour and a disquieting bleakness and depression in the environment and characters.
This is no mighty and profound work that will move you or shock you to your foundation. But it is a quirky and clever little film that can make you shake your head with a grin and maybe look at the world just a little differently. And if you work in an office, I guess you wont be looking at your colleagues in quite the same way again either.