“An atmospheric and moving meditation on the paradoxes of faith”
We all make mistakes, but sometimes those mistakes hurt others, even taking their lives. Do people who hurt others deserves forgiveness? This question is at the heart of Corpus Christi (2019), Jan Komasa’s new film about a young priest with a troubled past. The Polish film is nominated for Best International Feature Film at the 2020 Academy Awards.
Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) found God in an unusual place: a juvenile detention center. There, he helps out with services and in return, the priest gets Daniel set up to work at a sawmill after his release. En route to the sawmill, Daniel ends up at a church where he is mistaken as a priest. Despite his strong faith and desire to preach, he technically cannot practice due to his criminal past. So, Daniel seizes the opportunity to be a priest.
Unbeknownst to Daniel, the parish desperately needs a charismatic leader. The community is in mourning after a drunk driving incident that took the lives of seven people, six in one car and one in the other. Six have been buried, but the driver has not been buried and is excluded from discussions and events in honor of those who died. Daniel’s sermons and prayers are deeply touching even for viewers that are not religious themselves. While speaking to the families of the victims, Daniel says “God, we don’t know why you did this,” breaking down the often-elevated role of priest by displaying honesty.
Though Daniel’s preaching is received well at first, things get complicated when Daniel fights for the proper burial of the driver involved in the accident. The situation brings up arguments, truths about the incident, and reveals the strength of faith. Daniel aligns himself with the core values of Christianity: love and forgiveness for all; two things that may seem simple, but become very difficult when the person who needs love and forgiveness has harmed others.
Corpus Christi is inspired by a true story, making the events all-the-more intriguing. The plot unravels in a way that keeps you watching, releasing bits of information that shake things up at exactly the right moments. The film is about limits of forgiveness, who decides those limits, and how people confront them in the wake of tragedy. It is an atmospheric and moving meditation on the paradoxes of faith. The score and filmmaking are impeccable, setting a dramatic yet hopeful tone that matches the mood perfectly. Bartosz Bielenia’s performance as Daniel carries the film, making Corpus Christi a thought-provoking character study with implications far beyond the theater. Altogether, the elements create a film that will stick with viewers, whether that’s through inspiring them, invoking discussions, or leading them to ponder their own relationship with religion.
Dir.: Jan Komasa
Prod.: Leszek Bodzak, Aneta Cebula-Hickinbotham
Cast: Bartosz Bielenia, Aleksandra Konieczna, Eliza Rycembel, Tomasz Zietek, Barbara Kurzaj
Release date: April 2020
Available on: Film festivals (present), theaters April 2020