We managed, somehow, to sneak out to another Polish film festival entry before it went away, this one about a video game tester/manager whose nice life testing games for a living, playing games with his pals on his off-time, and hanging with his probably-too-cute-for-him wife is making him miserable. Our hero on this journey, and the name of the movie, is Kamper. The Boy immediately picked up on the significance of that name (which I didn’t because of the “K”). But in gaming, as you may not know, a “camper” is one who hangs out in a particular location waiting for people to come into his field of view so they can pick him off easily. It’s a legitimate strategy, but not a popular one with those who, you know, are victims of it.
And so, our Kamper is one who sits and waits in life, but unlike video games, camping is a very unsuccessful life strategy. Important goals don’t typically just walk in front of one to be plucked up. And as we first meet him, we discover that Camper’s wife, Mania, has cheated on him, though the extent and nature of this cheating is somewhat unclear. It’s unclear between them, it seems: She’s confessed, and he’s kind of torturing her over it, and torturing himself asking for details.
He’s having a hard time getting over it. He does not, of course, leave her. But neither does he forgive her. And instead, he decides to learn Spanish when he sees a very fetching Spanish lass in the café where he and his fellow testers hang out. And, quite frankly, not to knock the whole premise of these things, but Piotr Zurawski (Kamper) is very believable as a video game tester/afficionado and one has a little more trouble believing that Marta Nieradkiewicz (as Mania, his wife) and Sheily Jimenez (his Spanish teacher) find him very attractive.
But, hell, I don’t get this stuff. I’m certain I don’t get it in modern day American, much less modern day Poland. Nerds, while never attractive to women in the past (don’t lie, ladies), at least were hardcore engineers. They did things. Now that “nerd” status is conveyed on people who consume mass media television shows and video games, all of a sudden they’re attractive? (I don’t believe this, but I see it in movies. I don’t really see it much in real life, and I’ve known a lot of real nerds.)
Anyway, the problem with a movie like this is that the hero is defined by his lack of action, which can be a bit boring. Freshman director Lukasz Grzegorzek (sorry we couldn’t stay for the Q&A, guy!) gets around this pretty well, by having Kamper do things, even if those things are essentially avoidance of his serious issues. There’s an interesting scene where his wife shows him her food truck that underscores a lot of the issues, specifically his overwhelming tendency toward doing nothing. This is realistic, at least. It’s not exactly riveting, though. Likewise, the end does have our hero taking action (I guess that’s spoilery, but if he didn’t do something the movie wouldn’t be worth watching at all), the best element of which is confronting the tiny, none-too-attractive ex-lover of his wife.
The denouement is really the weak part, because his taking action doesn’t seem strong enough. He resolves, after a fashion, his love life—but his love life was never really his problem, and I wasn’t sufficiently sold on his character arc that I felt confident, like, “Yeah, now he’s going to make it!” The Boy and I liked it, though, I more than he, as he really felt it needed more development. (And while he didn’t care, particularly, he didn’t find their game testing scenes very realistic.)
So, it was okay. Film fests are always crap-shoots, but this wasn’t terrible.