During his time in juvie, Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) has become a convert, taking religion to heart and becoming friends with Father Tomasz (Lukasz Simlat), the chaplain at the detention center. Father Tomasz has become a mentor to him, so when a young man from Daniel’s past arrives at the center, Daniel fears for his life and asks the Father to help him out. While Daniel would love to enter the seminary, Father Tomasz insists that no seminary would take a convict like him. Instead, Daniel receives an early parole, and is sent to work at a sawmill in the countryside. However, before making it to the mill, Daniel stops off at the local church to pray, which inadvertently leads him to masquerade as a priest named Father Tomasz. At the clergy house, he meets the local priest (Zdzislaw Wardejn), who is dealing with some demons of his own, and soon decides to take a leave of absence in order to seek treatment, placing Daniel unofficially in charge as the town’s new priest.
Daniel learns that many of the townsfolk are still grieving over a recent tragedy that left seven people dead, most of whom were just teenagers. The parents of many of the deceased spend their days in front of the memorial wall adorned with pictures of their children, praying and crying for their loss. They have shunned local widow Ewa (Barbara Kurzaj), the wife of the seventh victim, writing horrible things on her home, blaming her deceased husband for their own losses. Among those grieving are Lidia (Aleksandra Konieczna), who manages the clergy house, and her daughter Eliza (Eliza Rycembel). Daniel takes his job as the town’s new priest seriously, utilizing some of the things he saw the real Father Tomasz do during mass at the detention center. He makes it his mission to help the people of the town heal and come to terms with their loss. However, how long can Daniel keep up his charade before someone discovers the truth?! And how will these people who put their faith into him react?
Corpus Christi was one of the few Oscar-nominated films from last year that I still hadn’t seen, so I was excited to check out this Polish nominee in the Best International Feature Film category (which was ultimately won by powerhouse Parasite). At its core, the film deals with concepts of faith, redemption, and forgiveness. Daniel did something horrible in his past (the details of which aren’t revealed until well into the film), but has found religion and has become a better person. But it seems difficult for others to accept that he has changed—his past will always haunt him, no matter how much good he does. As Daniel is on the bus heading cross-country, a cop immediately assesses that he has come from juvie, and treats him like a criminal. And when Daniel first meets Eliza in the church, she doesn’t believe him when he says he’s a priest (granted, she was correct). So Daniel sees his chance to reinvent himself in this small town, and prove that he can be a good person. However, even when Daniel wants to do something good—by looking for the truth surrounding the incident that has left so many in the town grieving—he receives thinly veiled threats from the mayor (Leszek Lichota) suggesting that he best let sleeping dogs lie.
At the same time, folks in the town are also dealing with their own inner demons. The priest has his own dark past, which has driven him to drink to excess, and now he is off seeking help. The grieving parents are having trouble coming to terms with their loss, and are taking their anger out on a woman who is also grieving. If these churchgoing folks refuse to forgive and forget, and are shunning a formerly welcome member of their own congregation, what hope does Daniel have? Corpus Christi is very much a drama, with some dark moments, but the writers have found ways to inject moments of humor to lighten the mood. For example, early on when Daniel suddenly finds himself listening to the parishioners in the confessional, he can be seen using his phone to google for a how-to guide.
Bartosz Bielenia gives quite a captivating performance in the lead role, expressing so much emotion through his wide eyes. You really get the feeling that Daniel is a changed person, sorry for his past, and trying to lead a better life, but also knowing that deep down his charade cannot last forever. I found his journey of trying to help himself while helping this town to be quite compelling. He is constantly met with new obstacles to overcome, and there is always the underlying fear that he will be found out. In addition, there’s the mystery of Daniel’s past, what truly happened in this town, and is the mayor trying to hide something in that regard? While I really enjoyed the film overall, I found the ending to be a bit unsatisfying and lacking in resolution. While some of the character arcs do reach satisfying conclusions, others were either never addressed, or left hanging ambiguously. While I can guess as to what the writer was trying to imply by the ending, I would have preferred something more concrete.
Film Movement’s Blu-ray release has a very solid video and audio presentation. There are some really beautiful, picturesque landscapes in this countryside setting that look great, even in the darker nighttime scenes. The clergy house is a bit run down and has an antiquated style, but the colors and detail in the paint and surfaces is captured in beautiful, pristine way. The audio track is a little more subtle as this is not an effects-heavy film, but there is an immersive feeling whenever Daniel is preaching to his congregation. The Blu-ray disc is packed in transparent HD keepcase without a slipcover. In addition to some trailers, the disc also includes a 15-minute behind-the-scenes featurette as well as a 16-minute student short film by the director.
- 1080p / Widescreen 2.39:1
- Audio: Polish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Polish Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Making-of Featurette (15:01)
A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film with the director and cast. The director discusses punching up the original draft of the script by adding cheekiness and humor, having the freedom to work the way he wanted to, keeping the story grounded in reality, and having a priest on set for both technical and moral guidance. The cast members talk about their various characters, the tough realities of juvie, the difficulty of playing a character who’s playing a character, and more. Includes behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with director Jan Komasa, and actors Bartosz Bielenia (“Daniel”) Zdzisław Wardejn (“Wojciech Gołab”), Łukasz Simlat (“Father Tomasz”), Tomasz Ziętek (“Pinscher”), and Barbara Kurzaj (“Ewa”).
- Bonus Short Film – Nice to See You (16:04)
In this 2004 short film, directed by Jan Komasa, college student Magda (Julia Kijowska) is surprised when her father (Stanislaw Penksyk) suddenly shows up at her dorm, begging her to move back home. She uses her boyfriend Wojtas (Julek Dzienkiewicz) and friend Lidka (Marta Chodorowska) as distractions to avoid having to speak with her father. Similar to Corpus Christi, this short film didn’t really come to a resolution. The viewer is never given any information as to what the rift is between this father and daughter, and it seemed to be more of a character exploration—I was once again left with a feeling of “Huh?”.
- Corpus Christi Trailer (1:56)
- More Film Movement Trailers
- Zombi Child (1:52)
- The Wild Goose Lake (2:03)
- Afterimage (1:44)
Corpus Christi is a well-acted, beautiful-looking film about many different people in the same small town dealing with their inner demons and questions of faith, forgiveness and redemption. I found the ending of the film to be a little weak, however, I would still recommend the movie as it is quite entertaining and thought-provoking. Film Movement’s Blu-ray looks and sounds great and includes about 30 minutes of bonus material.