Welcome to the 2019 CIRCUIT CONSIDERATIONS series. Highlighting the very best in film, acting, and technical achievements for the past 12 months that awards voters may need help remembering. Each day a different writer will make their plea for a specific film in a respective category. If you miss one, click the tag “Circuit Considerations 2019,” and if you have some suggestions, include them in the comments below!
“Corpus Christi,” Poland’s official submission for International Feature Film, is one of the best entries of the year. And while that category may seem all but assured for Korea’s “Parasite,” Jan Komasa‘s drama is a worthy addition to the field.
Bartosz Bielenia is Daniel, a troubled young man who has spent years in a youth correctional facility for a violent crime. And his time there is met with even more violence. Daniel dreams of becoming a priest, although admission to the seminary is next to impossible for someone with his record, which is ironic when the church is supposed to be all about atonement and repentance.
Upon his release, Daniel heads north where a job awaits him. But along the way, he finds himself in a small town chapel. He isn’t trying to cause trouble when he allows the local priest to believe he, too, is a newly frocked member of the clergy. But he is young and is quickly caught up in the lie, which becomes more problematic when the resident father decides to take a break, leaving the parish in Daniel’s inexperienced, uneducated, and some would say unworthy hands.
Every year there are dozens of cases of criminals and scammers impersonating the clergy. “Corpus Christi” uses this pervasive problem to tell a story not of grifting and deceit, but of grace and redemption. Daniel’s violent past is one that he can’t escape. But as he serves strangers in a community that isn’t his own, he finds a sense of redemption and purpose. It’s something we can all learn from and tells a story that is powerful and universal. Who among us isn’t looking for some redemption in our lives? Some absolution for the past?
“Corpus Christi” is beautifully photographed, with lovely performances. But above all else, it tells a story that we need to hear. Poland has had a good track record in recent years, with “Ida” and “Cold War,” both finding their way into the hearts of the Academy. “Corpus Christi” is poised to join their ranks as a film that is specific to its setting, but also crosses borders. And in that sense, it is precisely the type of film that belongs in a category like International Feature. It works within a particular place, time, and culture to tell a story that reaches across lines and oceans.
Bringing together strong technical elements with a story that is both meaningful and resonant, “Corpus Christi” should not be overlooked during this year’s race for International Feature Film.