Alex Heeney reviews Jan Komasa’s Corpus Christi, one of the best acquisition titles screening at TIFF19, which is like the Vicar of Grantchester meets Suits only darker because this is Poland.
Everyone’s a hypocrite in Jan Komasa’s Corpus Christi, and the Catholic church is the worst culprit of all. Built on practices of forgiveness, priests tend to, instead, reinforce people’s worst, most judgmental instincts. Enter Daniel (the charming and haunted Bartosz Bielenia), an ex-convict cloth-hopeful who will never be accepted to seminary school because of his record. The film opens with him casually helping his inmates enact violence on another, before acting as an altar boy, getting released from prison with a promise not to do drugs — only to do just that and more on his release.
Yet when Daniel pretends to be a priest, his deceit feels easily forgivable because he ends up working some Vicar-of-Granchester-like magic on a nominally pious community. Not only does he help them with their grief, he also forces them to confront their own hypocrisy with kindness. A young and charming priest, he’s an easy favourite as much for his moving sermons as his willingness to play football. Shot in icy blues, greens, and greys, this is a harsh, sad world with no happy endings in sight. Yet Komasa finds much humour in this premise, creating a wise satire of not just the church but the way people use their beliefs to justify their own bad behaviour, and the way judging others can only end up hurting everyone.
Corpus Christi is still seeking distribution in the US, UK, and Canada.
Corpus Christi screens 9/10 at 5:45 p.m. (Scotiabank) and 9/12 at 12 p.m. (TIFF Bell Lightbox), and 9/15 at 9:15 a.m. (Scotiabank). Tickets here.