Starring: Bartosz Bielenia, Aleksandra Konieczna, Łukasz Simlat
Directed by: Jan Komasa
Jan Komasa and the producers of Boże Ciało (Corpus Christi) are working very hard to get some screening opportunities overseas for Poland’s submission to the Academy Awards 2020. Is the third feature film of the wunderkind of Polish filmmaking worth the hard sell abroad? The domestic glorification and kudos that Boże Ciało received in Venice deserve the promotional effort.
Shot by a declared believer puzzled by certain ecclesiastical protocols, Komasa’s not-so-festive drama is one of the most trenchant critiques of the Catholic Church to have appeared in years on the big screen. Less gaudy than Clergy (2018), Wojciech Smarzowski’s purposely grotesque pamphlet Corpus Christi does not portray any Vatican schemers or crafty Polish clergyman caught in a game of Church insiders. It narrates the stint of paroled Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) as a fake Catholic priest in a one-horse town of the Lublin Region after escaping a job in a sawmill. The script presents the redemption of the self-ordained pastor as a fait accompli and focuses instead on Daniel’s impact on the local community.
In an interview for Variety, Komasa evoked a parallel between the villagers in the movie traumatized by a tragic road accident and Polish society, which remains divided over the Smolensk plane crash. The priest knows that his days to heal the community of hatred are numbered.
Angel-faced Bielenia could only bring about great things in Polish cinema. His interpretation perfectly conveys the spontaneity and non-judgmental approach that many believers would expect from the Church. Once again after Suicide Room (2011) and Warsaw 44 (2014), Komasa has made the best out of young and loud characters. With effective cinematography drenched in greens and greys by Piotr Sobociński, Jr., Corpus Christi is leaving plenty of superb impressions abroad even regardless of any Oscar hopes.