Thursday, November 14, 2013

In the name of ... (orig. W imię...) [2013]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Slant (2 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing listing* listing* (M. Wróbel) review* (M. Michałek) review*
GlosWielkopolski (J. Sobczyński) review* (Ł. Rogojsz) review*
Polonia Christiana (K.Kratiuk) review*
Slant (B. Weber) review
Variety (A. Simon) review

In the name of ... (orig. W imię...) [2013] [IMDb] []* (directed and cowritten by Małgorzata Szumowska [IMDb] []* along with Michał Englert [IMDb] []*) is a current Polish film that takes up the priestly sex abuse scandal that has been reverberating throughout the Catholic Church across the world.  The film played recently at both the 49th Chicago International Film Festival and at the 25th Annual Polish Film Festival in America held in here Chicago.  While predictably dismissed in some trés liberal quarters in the American press (see A. Simon's review from Variety above) where it's taken as a tenet of faith that Slavic lands _must_ be "backward," the film has produced lively discussion in Poland that reminds "those with eyes and ears" (or at least access to google's chrome browser or :-) that, as in Ireland (that other Catholic country also so dogmatically looked down upon by America's eternally WASP-dominated establishment), Poland's artistic community is neither "backward" nor a "lapdog" (For those wondering how Ireland's artistic community has confronted similar questions about homosexuality, etc please refer to my review of Albert Nobbs [2011] of a few years past).

In any case, I've much appreciated the efforts of the organizers of the annual Polish Film Festival in America over the years because they remind readers and viewers that Poland is not the racist backwater that it's often portrayed.  It is a complex country with a centuries long literary / artistic tradition that continues despite Gulags and Concentration camps (most of Poland's intelligencia was shot or otherwise exterminated by both the Nazis and the Soviets during World War II, neither of which wanted a Poland after the war capable of standing on its own feet) and since the fall of Communism in 1989 has been allowed to live in peace again and begin once again to flourish and thrive.

Again, as in Ireland, there will always be a tension between the Catholic Church and its artistic community.  Yet, it does a terrible disservice to both if one insists on the view that the Catholic Church dominates everything.  The Church will comment on the Arts, as the Arts will comment, and as in this film it comments, on the Church, BUT IN A FREE SOCIETY THAT SHOULD BE NORMAL.  With freedom of speech/expression comes accountability ... and that is good for all.

To the film ... It centers on a Catholic priest named Adam (played by Andrzej Chyra [IMDb] []*).  By dress (he wears designer-tagged clothes) and mannerisms (he jogs and he skypes) clearly born-and-raised in the city, he finds himself having been recently moved from a ministry in Warsaw to a provincial town somewhere in the Polish countryside where he takes-up a post as the parish priest as well as co-director of a half-way house/reformatory for juvenile delinquents (male) from the city. 

Initially, all appears well.  He seems well liked by the townspeople, respected by Michał Raczewski (played by Łukasz Simlat [IMDb] []*) the other, lay (former-seminarian but left to get married) co-director the half-way house/reformatory, and in as much as it would be possible, gaining respect of the young male youths (juvenile delinquents) serving out the rest of their terms there.

But it's a house of cards.  And how the film-makers have it fall apart is, for me, a Catholic priest after all, fascinating:

To begin with, Michał's wife Ewa (played by Maja Ostaszewska [IMDb] []*) who, like Adam, also grew-up in the city, and has hated it, living out in the country, ever since she and Michał had moved out there after getting married, finds Adam "interesting."  When he comes to refuse her overtures, SHE becomes the first to ask the question if (on screen) only to him: "Why were you moved from Warsaw to a s-hole like this?  It must have been some sort of a punishment."

Then Adam comes to have to deal with (surprise among still de-facto inmates in the prime of their lives) a couple of incidents of homosexuality among the youth in his charge.  And he deals with these matters quite compassionately actually.  However, one of the juveniles, starts to vocalize what others (in as much as they thought about it much) were piecing together ... that Adam is probably gay.  Hearing this from the arrogant, frightening "Blondyn's" (played by Tomasz Schuchardt [IMDb] []*) mouth, one of the more sensitive youths there, named "Dynia" (played by Mateusz Kościukiewicz [IMDb] []*), one who Adam's been actually "helping quite a bit" / becoming "close to" ... is ELATED.

Then one of the other teens at the half-way house/reformatory COMMITS SUICIDE (for any number of reasons), inviting, however, indeed necessitating,  investigation.  Boże mój (Good God...) how could someone with already a question mark in his past, possibly survive?

When poor Michał riding back to town in his truck finds Adam and "Dynia" alone in Adam's car with Adam's head apparently on "Dynia's lap ... WHAT THE HECK IS HE SUPPOSED TO DO?  He goes to the Bishop, who's, of course, not particularly happy to see him especially when he comes with the news that the Bishop _already fears_ Michał is coming with. 

The rest of the film plays-out from there ... and yes, not particularly well... indeed, by standards of today TERRIBLY (and when one gets to the film's last scene, TERRIBLY IN SO MANY WAYS ...).  BUT I suppose what's also fascinating is that ... as one gets to the end of the film, as horrific as the ending is (and it's INTENTIONALLY HORRIFIC)... the viewer with any kind of compassion would probably understand, at least PARTLY, WHY.

And that I suppose would be the novelty of the film.  It's a brave, confusing and above all CAR WRECK of a film:  In the name of...?  In the name of ... who?

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser.

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