Friday, November 21, 2014

Foreign Body (Obce ciało) [2014]

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

IMDb listing listing* (L. Pellegrini) interview w. director* (A. Sterna) review* (P. Jalowski) review* (A. Majewski) review*

HollywoodReporter (T. McCarthy) review
Variety (D. Harvey) review

Foreign Body (Obce ciało) [2014] [IMDb] []*(written and directed by Krzysztof Zanussi [IMDb] []* [] [en.wikip] [pl.wikip]*) played at both the 50th Annual (2014) Chicago International Film Festival and more recently the 26th Annual (2014) Polish Film Festival in America held here in Chicago. 

And this is appropriate as this renowned half-Polish, half-Italian film-maker, began his career in his native Poland under the influence of the Polish Film School [en.wikip] [pl.wikip]*(itself heavily influenced by Italian Neo-Realism [en.wikip] [it.wikip]*).  Later, during the Papacy of John Paul II / the Solidarity Era, he spent much of the 1980s in the West.  Even under Communism, the themes of his films had often religious / philosophical themes.  Several of his films were featured in Martin Scorsese's series: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema: [MSP Website] [].  When the series played here in Chicago, I reviewed his film The Constant Factor [1980] here on my blog.  As such, while certainly Polish, Zanussi's career has been marked by a transcendence of his roots to a truly world stage.  And yet, he does bring both Poland and his Catholicism with him in a way that those among the world's intelligencia today "who would have eyes and ears" would find both interesting and challenging.

Such then is the case of this thoroughly "international" or at least "European" film being reviewed here:

The story is about two mid-to-late 20-somethings, both still young, educated and attractive, he Italian, named Angelo (played by Riccardo Leonelli [IMDb] []*), she Polish, named Kasia (played by Agata Buzek [IMDb] []*).   They apparently met at an international gathering of one or another Catholic young-adult oriented movements (one thinks of Opus Dei, Focolare, Sant'Edidio or perhaps even the French-based Taize) quite popular among young people in Europe today. 

Though becoming friends and certainly attracted to one other, she decides to return back to Poland and explore the possibility of entering the Convent.  He, though certainly in love with her, as _a good Catholic_ respects her decision to explore this.

To most of the other characters in the story (as perhaps to many readers here) THESE DECISIONS (she to explore the possibility of entering the Convent, he letting her explore it) SEEM INCOMPREHENSIBLE.

Kasia's well educated (and quite well connected) Polish father (played by Sławomir Orzechowski [IMDb] []*), in fact, looks up Angelo and even finds him a job (with some multinational energy firm) up in Poland in hopes that Angelo would talk Casia out of her decision.  Though honestly hoping that Casia will leave the Convent (she enters the Convent as part of a year of postulancy/discernment), Angelo refuses to do this.

IN THE MEAN TIME, several very attractive / well educated women at his work at the "Energy Company" in Poland, notably Kris (played by Agnieszka Grochowska [IMDb] []*), his boss, and Mira (played by Weronika Rosati [IMDb] []*) his colleague and Kris' best friend at the office, SIMPLY DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY the very intelligent, very good-looking, very eligible Angelo would be "waiting" for Casia to make-up her mind, and, more to the point "not indulging in the other fish in the sea."  Eventually Kris simply tells Angelo: "I know that you're not gay, but ... you're apparently very Catholic, which is almost as unfortunate as being gay." 

Kris and Mira spend much of the rest of the story making Angelo's life "a living Hell" even as Angelo hopes that Casia will decide to leave the Convent but _only_ if Casia decides that this is God's will.


In my review of Ida [2014], I lamented actually that its portrayals of both Ida herself and life in her Convent remained quite cliched (the young "naive nun-to-be" who didn't even know where she came from is sent-out into the world to "find-out who she really is..."). 

In stark contrast, Casia is presented in this film as a thoroughly intelligent young woman who is, very consciously, eyes open, discerning whether to commit her life IN THIS WAY to God.  AND HER MOTHER SUPERIOR IS PRESENTED AGAIN AS A WISE AND QUITE SECURE / SERENE MENTOR FIGURE TO HER: When Casia asks to leave the Convent for a period of time, "No problem."  When Casia "assures" the Mother Superior that she'll be back, the Mother Superior responds serenely, "Don't worry my Child, the world will not come to an end if you don't."  In this way, Casia was being reminded that her decision whether to stay, go or return was to be free.  (And she would do NO ONE any favors, if she made her decision to stay, go or return without such freedom).

Does Casia stay to become a nun? (Mild spoiler alert) ... YES.  It's a decision that many, many people in this world would not understand.  But she does, and freely.

So then, did Angelo waste a year "waiting" (and often suffering ridicule) in out there in Poland?  The film has an interesting and perhaps surprising answer to that as well.

All in all, an excellent and UNAPOLOGETICALLY CONTEMPORARY CATHOLIC FILM that for those "would have eyes and ears" would be worth-the-while to look-up when it becomes available on DVD or services like Amazon Instant Video to see. 

* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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