Review | Polish film ‘Corpus Christi’ tackles faith and forgiveness

Corpus Christi | Dir: Jan Komasa | ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ 

This Polish film is based on actual events. Twenty year-old Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) is paroled from prison after serving time for second-degree murder. After finding comfort in religion during his prison term, his desire is to become an ordained priest, but his criminal record prevents his from attending the seminary.

Instead, he is sent to work at a saw mill in a small Polish town. Going to the local church instead of reporting for work at the mill, he boasts to a young woman Marta (Eliza Rycembel) that he is a priest and pulls out a shirt with a clerical collar from his bag that he must have stolen from the prison priest.

Much to his surprise, the strangely charismatic young man is believed by Marta’s mother Lydia (Aleksandra Konieczna), who is the housekeeper to the local priest. When an alcoholic binge incapacitates the priest, Daniel is asked to take the confession and when the priest leaves town for rehabilitation, Daniel has to take on all his duties.

The film is full of tension as the possibility of discovery by the authorities mixes with the possibility that Daniel will be discovered to be a fraud by the townspeople. But Daniel takes to his new vocation with zeal and is embraced by the townspeople even though some his methods might be startlingly unconventional.

Full of hypocrisy and moral dilemmas, the drama is intensified when Daniel tries to deal with the massive grief in the town over a recent head on collision that killed seven people, including many of the youth of the town.

Writer / director Jan Komasa has not created a happily-ever-after tale of redemption, but a cautionary tale about faith and forgiveness that has been nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category in this year’s Oscars.

Corpus Christi screens at Somerville as part of the Perth Festival from Monday 18 January – Sunday 24 January.

Lezly Herbert

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