The Polish entry went to the Oscars this year CORPUS OF CHRIST empty. Nevertheless, it receives a regular release in USA cinemas. For a cinema ticket, the viewer receives a darkly staged but unfortunately not really substantial drama about a criminal who finds God. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: Boze Cialo (POL 2019)
20-year-old Daniel (Bartosz Bielena) experiences a spiritual transformation during his stay in a youth prison. From now on he wants to become a priest, but knows that this plan is fraught with many hurdles. Because of his previous convictions, it is almost impossible for him to take up this supposed vocation. But then suddenly everything turns out differently: When he is sent to work in a small town, he spontaneously disguises himself as a priest when he arrives and soon takes over the local community when the local priest dies. With the arrival of the young, charismatic preacher, the community changes for the better and Daniel sees his supposed destiny confirmed. But this deceptive maneuver has devastating consequences…
It sounds like a classic movie plot, even more like a comedy plot: a man dresses up as a priest, even though he isn’t actually one. He then converts the community with his unconventional masses and ultimately it no longer matters that the supposed savior was actually just an impostor. Since no one noticed, he couldn’t have done his job so poorly. This plot already existed in a more or less modified form, but in the case of “Corpus Christi” it is not part of a classic comedy of mistakes, but of a real drama – no wonder, the film is based on a true incident, according to which a A young Polish man pretended for three years (!) that he was on the Lord’s behalf, when in reality he was simply a criminal on probation. Director Jan Komasa (“Suicide Room”) has now staged the story as a very dark form of self-discovery drama. This only partially means that the main character finds himself – she somehow already did that when she discovered her religious streak. Rather, it is about society itself, which must find a moral understanding in which it answers the question for itself: Do we accuse the young man of his imposture (emotionally, not literally), or do we recognize that he is Maybe he did his day’s work better than many real priests?
Daniel (Bartosz Bielena) has a dream: to become a priest. But with a criminal record this is hardly possible.
If you’re honest, “Corpus Christi” only stands out from similar material because it is staged in a particularly dark manner. Because of course, at the end of every story of this kind – be it Neil Jordan’s “We are no angels” or Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me if you Can”, there is also undeniable admiration for the audacity of the person making the tall order plays an important role – the question is always: Who is actually “guiltier”? The one who fools the others or those who allow themselves to be fooled? Added to this is the blind allegiance to a supposed authority: We remember: In Robert Schwentke’s “The Captain,” a man only has to wear a captain’s uniform and every soldier who crosses his path has to cower. In “Corpus Christi,” the captain’s uniform becomes a priest’s outfit. And the twenty-year-old offender’s unconventional masses are very different from the previous priest’s sermons, but instead of questioning this, Daniel’s appearance is seen as breaking down established traditions. And then there it is again, the question: Is it so bad that someone holds church masses even though they are not actually a priest? After all, unlike in the medical profession, for example, there are no human lives at stake here that the impostor could risk due to his lack of training.
“Do we indict the young man for his imposture (emotionally, not literally), or do we acknowledge that he may have done his day’s work better than some real priests?”
But “Corpus Christi” has nothing to offer other than this moral and legal conflict. And this despite the fact that screenwriter Mateusz Pacewicz (who, together with director Jan Komasa, is responsible for the currently much-discussed Netflix production “The Hater”) tries to create a narrative ambivalence in many places, which only comes into play towards the end. He does not provide a simple answer to the question of whether success in the fake job legitimizes the illegal methods used to get to this position. But when asked what such an act of self-sacrifice (Daniel does his work as a priest not for reasons of prestige or money, but because he is simply very passionate about this profession) does to the person who chooses him. How the script portrays the anti-hero Daniel here is exciting; Already in the very first scene you can see the young man working in a sawmill being in trouble when a few colleagues are severely harassing a weaker colleague. In the end, it is Daniel himself who emerges from a fight covered in blood. In between, apart from his masses and dealings with the faithful parishioners, he remains aloof and does not allow himself to be seen in his cards. He loves what he does, but he seems like a time bomb – and you can’t even say exactly what exactly was supposed to cause it to go off. Bartosz Bielenia (“The Man with the Magic Box”) There is simply an icy coldness that flows around you, which as a viewer is almost impossible to penetrate.
The village community mourns.
Every now and then the filmmakers break through the gray-green dreariness of “Corpus Christi” with humorous motifs. For example, when Daniel, who hears his congregation’s confessions for the first time, has a smartphone on his lap so that he can find the right devotional saying from the Internet at any time. Or when conversations about his origins are always not completed at the last moment and Daniel is simply not exposed as a result. Such scenes stand out from the drama, but place it even more in reality. Even in real life, the situation for the main character was not always characterized by a subtle fear of being discovered; At some point in the three years she began to feel safe. And then the moments in which Daniel can interact with the believers in a completely detached manner are infectious, or develop a completely different, more profound drama in the second half, when the fake priest desperately tries to finally get the community to accept something that has happened to them to process the stroke of fate to everyone’s satisfaction.
“Every now and then the filmmakers break through the gray-green dreariness of “Corpus Christi” with humorous motifs. For example, when Daniel, who hears his congregation’s confessions for the first time, has a smartphone on his lap so that he can find the right devotional saying from the Internet at any time.”
The significance of the production and the appearance of all the actors ultimately arises from two factors: Daniel’s emotional conflict and the constant fear of being exposed as a criminal. And once through the said bereavement and the associated conflicts within the community. Unfortunately, “Corpus Christi” can’t quite deliver on what the production sets out to do – it doesn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of message and character motivation.
Conclusion: “Corpus Christi” tells a story about an imposter that has already been heard many times, but here it is based on real events and focuses entirely on the pressure that the person doing the impostor is exposed to. Unfortunately, the film sometimes seems too full of meaning for the story, which is very easy to understand.
“Corpus Christi” can be seen in USA cinemas from September 3rd.