CORPUS CHRISTI (Boze Cialo) (Poland/France 2019) ****
Directed by Jan Komasa
In a tough year for foreign films, CORPUS CHRISTI, the Polish entry for the Best International feature at this year’s Oscars made the short list and now stands as a nominee. It will be hard fight against the favourite PARASITE and underdog LES MISERABLES, but CORPUS CHRISTI has impressed critics everywhere it has been shown and is a very good film.
The film begins with a violent incident in which an inmate, assumed who have betrayed the others gets his due. His trousers are pulled down in the workshop and balls crushed in a drawer. The next scene shows the inmate who likely had orchestrated the previous incident preparing for a religious service. The camera pauses showing the gleam in his eyes as if emphasizing the irony and hypocrisy of the religious service. It is just then that the director surprises the audience with the priest’s speech. “If you don’t want to be here, you can go outside to play football. But remember this…Each of us is a priest for Christ.” These words are soon to echo true for the young protagonist, Daniel.
The question that arises in the film is why Daniel survives? The answer is shown that Daniel is born a survivor. Daniel uses his common sense and adapts to the situation at hand. He can can fool anyone as a priest offering solid advice, often fooling even himself in the process. In contrast, he can live the other worldly life, fornicating, snorting coke and indulging in drunkenness.
The film shows that there is some good in man despite outward appearances. Daniel, the juvie has been bad most of his life but after pretending the be a priest learns that life offers him a chance to do good. “When asked what penance should be given to her when a mother confuses to hitting her son for smoking cigarettes, “Father’ Daniel tells her her penance is to take the son for a bike tour. Daniel also conducts mass in a comical manner, director Tan not offending the Catholic religion but executing the scene in good taste. Daniel's sermon are also something else - even receiving an unanimous applause from the congregation.
Better still is the scene when Daniel who the youth still believes is a priest hangs out with them in civii’s. So what is life all about? It is the topic that they eventually discuss, which of course no one has an answer to. But it is a lively session, which opens ones eyes to life.
The message that there is good in man and that one good deed follows another is a good one. But CORPUS CHRISTI is not an entirely feel good film, and this is what marks the film’s difference. It is grounded in reality. It is likely the reason the Polish film got nominated and made the short list for Best International Film at this Year’s Oscars.