Story of imposter as priest may disturb

Bartosz Bielenia in Corpus Christi (IMDB)

Corpus Christi is a conundrum. Nominated for an Oscar for best international film, it takes Christian faith seriously, but its often-cynical portrayal of the priesthood and the faithful may disturb. Source: CNS.

The plot is grounded in a known phenomenon in Poland in which young men impersonated priests, mostly for the perceived financial benefit, for at least brief periods in rural communities where no one was too inquisitive.

This makes it a challenge for Catholic audiences. Director Jan Komasa and screenwriter Mateusz Pacewicz, who reworked his book about imposter priests, tell the grim story of 20-year-old Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia). Just paroled from a juvenile detention facility, Daniel is sent to a remote community, where he’s been assigned work in a sawmill.

The nearby church holds far more appeal and, while stopping there briefly to pray, he gets into a conversation with a young woman, Eliza (Eliza Rycembel), who seems to think he might be a priest assigned to help the alcoholic local pastor (Zdzislaw Wardejn).

Daniel produces a clerical collar he stole from the prison chaplain, and he’s quickly, to his horror, drawn into his own fakery.

Even the pastor doesn’t ask a lot of questions so the illusion continues and the story takes on the qualities of a fable. When the real clergyman takes a leave of absence for treatment, Daniel has to take over all the parish responsibilities.

The middle third of the film changes tone completely. Daniel, as Fr Tomasz is compassionate and courageous, and parish life provides him with the first comfortable existence he’s known. The community also has an urgent need for such a priest.

He’s very much the model cleric, which makes the ending all the more tragic.

Reviewed by Kurt Jensen, CNS

Corpus Christi: Starring Bartosz Bielenia, Aleksandra Konieczna, Eliza Rycembel. Directed by Jan Komasa. Rated MA15+ (Strong violence, sex scenes and coarse language). CNS advises this film contains religious themes requiring mature discernment, some bloody violence, two non-marital sexual encounters, brief male rear nudity, drug use and frequent rough language. Running time 115 minutes. In cinemas now.

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Corpus Christi (CNS

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