Two Men and a Mattress, a new film by Joanna Rajkowska, started life as a film about Brexit. Unexpectedly, it grew into a narrative about an inexplicable urge that occasionally drives people blindly to their own destruction.
With a nod to Two Men and a Wardrobe by Roman Polański (1958), which depicted Polish postwar reality, saturated with violence, Rajkowska’s film employs two British men who, on a hot Polish summer day suddenly perform a strange act – taking a mattress and drowning it in the swamp. Before they do it, they discuss the historical moment they find themselves in and its ‘bloody awful’ character.
And then an exhausting and unstoppable trip with the mattress begins: downhill, through a forest, thorns and nettles, pursued by mosquitoes, into the swamps. ‘There is a kind of inevitability, once you start…’, one of them comments.
It is worth remembering the earlier wardrobe-carrying sequence in The Adventures of a Good Citizen (Franciszka and Stefan Themerson, Warsaw, 1937). The humorous and surreal performance by a group of friends includes a Jewish character. Watching the film, it is hard not to think about the catastrophe of the Holocaust that was already looming. And, as we know, the summer of 1939, like the summer in Two Men and a Mattress, was very hot.