Corpus Christi is memorable for the riveting performance by Polish actor Bartosz Bielenia as a young punk turned fake priest.
From violent young crim to charismatic preacher, Bielenia is totally convincing.
The film opens in a tough juvenile detention centre where 20-year-old Patrick (Bielenia) stands guard while his mates beat up today’s victim.
Unlikely as it seems, Patrick has found God while he is serving time for second degree murder.
In the “juvie” he works as an altar boy and dreams of becoming a priest, but the chaplain tells him his crimes make that impossible.
When he is paroled he is sent to work in a sawmill in a remote mountain village.
There, by chance, he is mistaken for a priest and he agrees to stand in for the real priest, an ageing alcoholic who is off to a drying-out clinic.
Bielenia is mesmerising as the young pretender, whose passionate sermons bring new hope to the grieving villagers.
They are a bitterly divided community mourning the recent death of six young people who were killed in a tragic head-on car smash.
The villagers are convinced that the other driver was responsible, and his widow has become a reviled outcast.
Despite Daniel’s inexperience as a priest (he uses his smartphone to learn religious procedure), his genuine belief in forgiveness and love makes his sermons compelling.
The villagers flock to hear him and gradually they start to reconcile. But for how long can Daniel get away with his deception?
Corpus Christi is a powerful film bound to spark debate about forgiveness, retribution and the place of religion in a community.
It is directed by Jan Komasa, in only his third feature, from a script by Mateusz Pacewicz, who discovered that there were several cases a year in Poland of men passing themselves off as priests.
Bielenia, 28, whose acting career has been mainly in experimental drama, won the 2020 Polish Academy Award for best actor for his role as Patrick.
Corpus Christi, part of the Perth Festival LotteryWest film season, will show at UWA’s Somerville Auditorium from Monday to Sunday, January 18-24.
Watch the trailer…