Boze Cialo [Corpus Christi] (2019)

Boze Cialo
Director: Jan Komasa
Writer: Mateusz Pacewicz
Cast: Bartosz Bielenia, Aleksandra Konieczna, Eliza Rycembel, Tomasz Zietek, Barbara Kurzaj, Leszek Lichota, Zdzislaw Wardejn, Lukasz Simlat
Seen on: 7.9.2020

Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) gets out of juvie. The priest in prison, Father Tomasz (Lukasz Simlat), has arranged a job for him at a saw mill in the country side, so Daniel makes his way there. He actually dreams of becoming a priest himself, but with his record, this has become impossible. When he reaches the saw mill, he finds that he cannot face his new reality, so he heads to the church in town instead. When he faces sarcastic Eliza (Eliza Rycembel), he tells her on a whim that he is a priest – and quickly finds himself drawn in to support the local Father (Zdzislaw Wardejn). He realizes that the community is still reeling after tragedy struck them and Daniel is determined to help, despite everything.

For some reason, I thought that Corpus Christi was going to be a comedy. It is decidedly not. Despite that misapprehension on my part, I was thoroughly impressed by the film.

The film poster showing Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) in a priest's robe, cigarette in hand.

Even though I thought Corpus Christi would be a comedy, I am very glad that it is not (although it does have a couple of moments full of humor). With the serious tone it strikes, it is able to really dive into the pain, but also the tenderness that suffuses the story. Komasa makes it a point to show that Daniel really is a very good priest, one who realizes that there is pain in his community – and who does everything to fix it.

That there is so much pain in his own past – from the guilt about the crime he committed to his disappointment about not being able to become a priest – only helps him with the situation. It was a beautiful thing to see that he managed to keep his faith in humanity’s goodness despite everything. In fact, he insists on people being good and seems convinced that everyone can be good, even when they are not. It is probably the best trait a priest can have.

Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) standing half-naked in front of the altar.

But the film doesn’t stick with that hopeful note. Given that it is based on a true story, it takes a more realistic turn again, managing to balance the realism with an ever so tiny note of hopefulness: even when things are bad, there is a touch of faith here (and I see this as a completely non-religious person). I found myself desperately wishing for Daniel to be able to get a fresh start. That he can’t get that is yet another way the carceral system fails people.

Bielenia is absolutely captivating as Daniel, both when he is good and when he isn’t, centering the film. With his performance, the film is always able to return to its heavy emotional core without feeling suffocating. I can only repeat: I was really impressed.

Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) holding a cross so his face is covered.

Summarizing: Striking.

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