Monday, December 30, 2019

Movie with Abe: Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi
Directed by Jan Komasa
To Be Released April 22, 2020

Those who are released from prison after a long stint inside often have a difficult time adjusting to a new life filled with certain freedoms and other limitations. It’s not uncommon to see ex-convicts return to prison shortly after getting out due to the standards set for behavior that do not permit them to enjoy liberties they’ve long awaited and do not set them up for a successful existence. Having a passion can steer those without much hope in the right direction, and may be able to fuel their journeys towards a positive and rewarding future.

Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) is a twenty-year-old man released from a juvenile detention facility, made aware by the priest with whom he has bonded that he cannot enroll in a seminary due to the nature of his criminal past. Set up for a job at a sawmill, Daniel brings the clothes of a priest with him. When he meets the local preacher, who requires some time away, Daniel is thrust into a position of leadership without anyone checking into his background or credentials. A combination of Googling answers to questions like how to do confession and a true passion for religion make Daniel an odd and eccentric fit for a small community grieving the lives lost in a tragic car accident.

There are definitely comic elements to this film that includes a great deal of violence, particularly in how Daniel’s physical appearance and lack of knowledge make some question his ability and education. Yet Daniel does express an enormous zeal for sharing the message of his God, finding creative ways to reach members of his parish that make its more traditional population balk. As someone who understands that people have looked down on him, Daniel opens up his heart to those shunned by the community, including the rebellious daughter (Eliza Rycembel) of the sexton and the widow (Barbara Kurzaj) of the man villainized for the car crash that has so shaken the town.

This film is Poland’s official Oscar submission and shortlisted finalist for Best International Feature, a formidable follow-up to last year’s “Cold War,” which managed to earn a Best Director mention. This film doesn’t feature black-and-white cinematography or haunting music, but it does tell an affecting and uplifting story that feels entirely original despite similar premises explored in the past. Bielenia is excellent, so completely natural and zealous that it’s easy to forget that he isn’t actually what he is pretending to be. Rycembel contributes to the experiences as the one person who seems to see Daniel for who he is without any judgment. While it might have been satisfying to end this film one scene earlier, the journey there is fully worthwhile and tremendously involving.


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