Rating : ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Availability: Apple TV, SBS on demand. Polish with English subtitles.
Storyline: Twenty-year-old Daniel is serving time in a Polish juvenile detention centre. The film’s opening is brutal as we witness the savagery of bullying behaviours in closed institutional settings. The film then moves to the chapel where Daniel and his peers listen to the Catholic sermons of Father Tomasz who tells them “each of us is the priest of Christ”. This turns out to be an epiphanic moment for Daniel, who internalises this calling to the priesthood. Father Tomasz, however, shatters his hopes telling him that his criminality bars him from becoming a priest. Instead, on release he is sent to work in a sawmill in a small rural town. But through a series of mistakes and opportunities, he ends up assuming the identity of the replacement village priest. It turns out he possesses a gift that resonates in the small town where parishioners are emotionally scarred by the loss of seven young people in a car accident. But Daniel’s presence shakes up village life as he becomes increasingly embroiled in dynamics that threaten his place in the fragile community.
Film-craft: Directed by award-winning Polish director, Jan Komasa, Corpus Christi won two awards at the Venice Film Festival when it premiered in 2019. It was also nominated for an Oscar in the Best International Feature Film category in 2020, but was beaten by the Korean film Parasite. Corpus Christi is visually striking, its cinematography shifts from icy shades of blue in the detention centre and later in village life, to the rich colours and textures of the village church, starkly contrasting the world inside and outside the ecclesiastical community.
Cast: Bartosz Bielenia is nothing short of electrifying as Daniel. He brings a sharp intensity to the role, and he is able to move impressively from being euphoric and saint-like to becoming frighteningly manic. At the same time he brings an easy humour to the film as he is expected to perform the unfamiliar priestly role. He is also supported by impressive performances, particularly Aleksandra Konieczna as Lidia, the church matron who becomes increasingly alarmed by the new priest’s behaviour, and Eliza Rycembel her daughter who befriends Daniel.
Personal Comments: Corpus Christi is shocking at times, funny, yet harrowing with heartbreakingly dark twists. While a bit heavy on symbolism, it offers a nuanced exploration of morality, faith, deception and acceptance in a closed rural community. With its thought-provoking ending, it is likely to linger long after the credits roll.