Do you like Hot Priest from Fleabag or Jude Law in The Young Pope? Well, this film isn’t exactly that, but it is about a priest. Kind of. Corpus Christi, while the title of the film is a city in Texas, is a Polish film. The film was Poland’s entry for the 92nd Academy Awards, which did end up being nominated for Best International Film Feature.
Directed by Jan Komasa, the film follows the story of a young man named Daniel, played by Bartosz Bielenia, in a juvenile detention centre. After spending time in the detention centre, he experiences a spiritual epiphany and would like to pursue a career in the clergy. However, his mentor Father Tomasz (Lukasz Simlat), informs him it would be impossible since he is a convict. As Daniel gets released from the detention centre, he has to report to a sawmill at a local small town, as it is a part of his reintegration into society and a part of his parole. Rather than work in the sawmill for probably the rest of his life, he decided to pretend to be a priest at the local church, where he takes over for the Father that presides over the church as he goes to rehab. He has little experience, but he manages to ease into the role and earn the trust of the members of the small town.
As a person that’s not really religious, it was an interesting premise as it questions whether it’s okay to fabricate an entire scheme and lie about their identity to practice religion in a small town. The whole time you’ll be holding your breath as you go along with him on the journey where he tries to tell the right lies to everyone. There a fear when you watch and think, “When will they find out he’s a fraud?” The entire film is complex and contradicts itself, which makes you question if you support what Daniel is doing or not. It makes you wonder what is right and wrong, and how can we determine who gets to speak for God? While the film is a slow burn at times, it never feels that way at all as you’re on the edge of your seat and questioning complex moral decisions.
As the lead of the film, Bartosz Bielenia expertly portrays the character with complexity and flaws that contradict everything he has going for him. He goes between the extremes as he tries to fit into this role of a priest. He will have sex with Father Tomasz daughter, Marta (Eliza Rycembel), and yet go on to raise money to aid in the burial of a man wrongly accused of drinking and driving that killed a few people. There’s a dimension to his character as he exudes an arrogant swagger with his cold appearance, but manages to capture an audience to be in his corner. You begin to root for his redemption and forgot that he’s a convict and he’s deceiving a small town. Bielenia is a magnetic force in the film that just exudes intensity. Every time he is on screen, he’s intense, yet vulnerable at the same time.
While watching a thriller that gets ugly at times probably isn’t the best for some in this time of quarantine, I still highly recommend this film. It’s an interesting look into the grey areas of life and commentary on the power of religion in everyday life. Like Bong Joon Ho said at the Golden Globes, “Once you get over the one-inch barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”