Name: Matt Turner
Over the course of Łukasz Grzegorzek’s feature debut Kamper, Mania (Marta Nieradkiewicz) repeatedly tells her husband Kamper (Piotr Żurawski) that he is “stupid for real.” First with affection then increasingly with the kind of exhaustion that comes from dealing with someone who can’t take a hint. Kamper details the breakdown of a marriage with surprising levity, tackling the traumatic minutiae of how relationships fall apart, trust is broken and two people realise they might not know each other like they thought they did - all the while remaining oddly cheery.
In the film’s opening sequence, Kamper seduces his wife with a mock-striptease that is just about funny enough to not be totally ridiculous. As they begin to elevate the foreplay, he twists her breasts and makes the sound of a motorbike starting. “This is exactly the point where your jokes cease to be funny.” She rolls over, they go to sleep. What Grzegorzek is seemingly keen to stress with his film is that its not a specific offence that irritates a partner beyond recovery, but the accumulation of events. Incidents like this continue, the couple become distanced, and Kamper becomes forced to face his own complicity in the dissolution of his marriage and his failure to take responsibility over his life.
Over the film’s duration, we see both parties flirt with unfaithfulness. Kamper first learns the full extent of his wife’s dissatisfaction when she admits to an affair with a television chef (famous Polish actor Jacek Braciak, appearing in a brief, amusing cameo.) He begins an affair with a Spanish language tutor, Luna, (Sheily Jimenez) in response. Neither interlude is particularly interesting, and both lovers are written as stereotypes more than real characters: a passionate latino and a small, angry chef. They arrive to create conflict, and depart when no longer required.
Grzegorzek’s film, whilst light as a feather and fairly forgettable, manages to not take itself too seriously all the while poking at some truths about relationships, achieving some pathos in between the frivolousness. Both actors are effective, Żurawski remaining charming, funny and likeable despite his character’s basic uselessness, and Nieradkiewicz maintaining a sympathetic, relatable presence even when cheating. Though formally unremarkable and lacking any marked directorial presence, Kamper does have a gentle, palatable quirk about it and a naturalism in performance and dialogue that makes it continually funny and sporadically insightful. The actors’ comic timing is impeccable, and jokes land with increasing effectiveness as the viewer becomes more familiar with the characters. Whilst it does little new, for a film about a subject so depressing, Kamper is far from unpleasant.
"Kamper" by Łukasz Grzegorzek (Poland)
Karlovy Vary 2016 - East of the West