‘Corpus Christi’ is nominated for best International Feature at The Oscars and comes from Poland. It is a religious parable of sorts, which is interesting because it comes from a mostly Catholic country – nearly 90% of the people identify as Roman Catholic. It stars Bartosz Bielenia as Daniel, a young man who was just paroled from juvie. He wants to be a priest, but cannot be accepted to the seminary because of his record (I wonder if that is a Catholic rule) He is sent to a rural town to work in their sawmill but when he gets there, gets mistaken for the young priest they have been waiting for, so voila, he becomes ‘Father Thomas.’
This sounds like a set up for a mistaken-identity comedy, but the film is much more intelligent than that. Father Thomas connects with the town folk – he drinks and smokes with them, and before you know it, the pews are crowded as he says mass. We get lessons in false idolatry, and how charisma can sway people to believe what you want them to believe. Father Thomas seems sincere because he is, we identify with him because just like us, he is an unapologetic sinner. There are some sub plots that populate the film and they distract from a main idea. I never got fully invested in a story line about young kids dying from an accident, and the shady mayor just felt all too familiar. But Bielenia is a star – you simply cannot turn away from him when he is on screen. This is a thought provoking film, and while I am not a practicing Catholic, I still have all of it in my head, and there is a lot I can identify and repel in this film.