Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi

2020, NR, 116 min. Directed by Jan Komasa. Starring Bartosz Bielenia, Eliza Rycembel, Aleksandra Konieczna, Tomasz Ziętek, Leszek Lichota, Łukasz Simlat.

REVIEWED By Richard Whittaker, Fri., April 3, 2020

Faith is a tricky thing, especially within the confines of structured religion. In a nation like Poland, where over 90% of the nation is a practicing and self-described Catholic, it goes beyond mere belief and becomes an element of identity. And when a religion is built around the idea of redemption, what does that mean when crime and sin are synonyms?

Corpus Christi – both Poland's International Feature Film Oscar selection for 2020 and one of the first titles in distributor Film Movement's experiment – delves deep into these questions through the actions of Daniel (Bielenia). When first seen, he's acting as lookout during a gang rape during shop class in a juvenile detention facility, yet he yearns for more. He wants to be a priest, but that's impossible for an ex-con (so much for time served and divine forgiveness, it seems). Upon release he is sent to a remote village to work in a sawmill: But through happenstance, and oddly plausible coincidence, he manages to lie himself into a position as the town's priest.

In the wake of the ongoing sexual abuse scandal that has finally caught up with the church, it would be easy for director Jan Komasa (Warsaw 44) and screenwriter Mateusz Pacewicz to portray Daniel as a predator who has finally found a fitting home. Instead, he is desperate to provide comfort to this village from the pulpit, even if doing so makes him a sinner. The same breeze that blew through The Return of Martin Guerre – the idea of a community accepting a lie because it creates a better truth – is given a different weight because of the Catholic subtext. Daniel providing the last sacrament in a costume store dog collar is about more than mere succor for the needy, or reciting words. Instead, it is about a last moment of connection.

Bielenia's damp-eyed performance is the broken heart of this restrained and low-key narrative. His fumbling, ecstatic sermons are exactly what this community needs, especially as it deals with dark secrets of its own. Present in almost every frame, he is the only constant of the story. Yet he is inconsistent (as is the way of youth) and his divided nature becomes clearest as he finds himself caught between the doubting eye of the old priest's sexton, Lidia (Konieczna, a storm cloud in human form), and the less-than-chaste attentions of her daughter, Marta (Rycembel). There's no attempt at theological debate, because his Catholicism is not the issue. Instead, caught somewhere between guilt and martyrdom, his fate ultimately poses poignant, rather than pointed, questions about the nature of faith beyond religion, compassion beyond covenant.

Corpus Christi is currently available through Film Movement's initiative whereby streaming "tickets" can be bought through virtual ticket booths for local arthouse cinemas. Choose from:
• Alamo Drafthouse Austin (tickets here)
• Violet Crown Austin (tickets here).

Showtimes

Alamo Drafthouse Village

2700 W. Anderson #701, 512/861-7030, www.drafthouse.com/austin/theater/village

Tuesday matinee Baby Day shows (first show of the day) are intended for parents and their children younger than 6. Showtimes at this venue are subject to frequent change. Please confirm daily times by phone or website.

Wed., April 8

4:00am

Thu., April 9

4:00am

Fri., April 10

4:00am

Sat., April 11

4:00am

Sun., April 12

4:00am

Mon., April 13

4:00am

Tue., April 14

4:00am

Violet Crown Cinema

434 W. Second, 512/495-9600, www.violetcrowncinema.com

Four-hour parking validation in attached garage with ticket purchase. Reserved seating; bar and cafe on-site.

Wed., April 8

4:00am

Thu., April 9

4:00am

Fri., April 10

4:00am

Sat., April 11

4:00am

Sun., April 12

4:00am

Mon., April 13

4:00am

Tue., April 14

4:00am

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Corpus Christi
Perry the Censor
Perry the Censor
Conservatives let slip governor's role in play cancellation

Richard Whittaker, April 26, 2010

Dewhurst Versus the First Amendment
Dewhurst Versus the First Amendment
ACLU legal director questions lite guv's role in shutting down student play

Richard Whittaker, March 29, 2010

More Corpus Christi
Arts Review
Corpus Christi
Austin Theatre Project's debut makes this controversial Passion play feel sacred

Jillian Owens, June 8, 2012

More by Richard Whittaker
Wanna Watch <i>Machete</i> With Us?
Wanna Watch Machete With Us?
Thursday livetweet of Robert Rodriguez's mexploitation classic

April 8, 2020

Now Streaming in Austin:
Now Streaming in Austin: "Slow Creep"
As we say farewell to Vulcan Video, a last look inside

April 7, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Corpus Christi, Jan Komasa, Bartosz Bielenia, Eliza Rycembel, Aleksandra Konieczna, Tomasz Ziętek, Leszek Lichota, Łukasz Simlat

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle