Starring: Arkadiusz Jakubik, Robert Wieckiewicz, Jacek Braciak, Janusz Gajos
Directed by: Wojciech Smarzowski
A few weeks after the release of Kler (Clergy), a judge in Poznań ruled that the Church was responsible in toto for the abduction and rape of a child perpetrated by a priest belonging to that order. Who knows if Polish director Wojciech Smarzowski would have injected an additional dose of hope for change in his most recent film after hearing the news?
One could hardly find any hints of holiness in Smarzowski’s contentious domestic box office hit. (It had the best opening since 1989, with nearly a million viewers the first weekend.) In Clergy there is not even room for spiritual emergencies as the one faced by Father Adam in Malgorzata Szumowska’s controversial drama In the Name of. The Roman Catholic Church in Poland is portrayed here as a an opulent syndicate, inviolable by divine and human law, headed by Archbishop Mordowicz (Janusz Gajos).
Clergy intertwines the stories of three insiders who cannot reform the Church but at least try to change their own fate. Priests Kukula (Robert Wieckiewicz) and Trybus (Arkadiusz Jakubik), the former an alcoholic and the latter accused of paedophilia, seek redemption by facing their past mistakes. A third, Father Lisowski (Jacek Braciak), gets involved in a power struggle with Mordowicz to climb the ladder and move to a higher position in the Vatican.
Smarzowski is a pragmatic artist and seems to suggest once again that only the facts matter. But, whether for better or worse, he continues to deform reality in his films. The movie’s most striking feature is certainly not the unmerciful and grotesque sense of humour – his stylistic trademark – but rather the spine-chilling testimonies from the victims of clergy sexual abuse that burst unexpectedly into the fiction.