Like most people in the industry, Jan Komasa has always loved movies. Growing up in Poland, his introduction to cinema came from both European and American film and he knew it was what he wanted to pursue.
Recently, we sat down recently to talk about his new film, “Corpus Christi,” which has been submitted as Poland’s Official Selection for Best International Film. “It’s a great honor,” he says of being chosen. “Poland’s film industry is growing. We have Agnieszka Holland and Pawel Pawlikowski in recent years. It’s great.”
Poland won its first Academy Award for Foreign Language Film in 2014 with Pawlikowski’s “Ida,” a black and white film about a woman whose life is thrown into disarray just before she takes her vows to become a Catholic nun.
“What has changed in Poland recently?” I ask. “Have the films gotten better, or are we just starting to notice them?”
He considers the question for a moment before explaining that after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the country went through a long period of transition. “People felt a little lost,” he says. For nearly twenty years, Poland — and much of central and Eastern Europe — struggled to find their identities.
“But by the early 2000s, things were changing,” he continues. In 2012, the Film Commission Poland was founded. And with it came a change for the country’s growing industry. That was just a year after Komasa’s feature, “Suicide Room,” earned accolades at festivals around the world. He would follow that up with another award-winning film, “Warsaw ’44,” which was also a commercial success. Recently, he has also worked in television.
Today, in between film projects, Komasa teaches at Lodz Film School, inspiring a new generation of writers and directors. It is work he says he enjoys, though he’s always looking forward to the next project.
And now, that next project is “Corpus Christi,” the story of a troubled young man who dreams of being a priest. Though his criminal past may keep him from being accepted to the seminary, he somewhat accidentally becomes a substitute priest in a rural town in southern Poland.
“Where did this idea come from?” I ask. Komasa says, “It’s apparently common problem in Poland. People impersonate priests and nuns. There are cases every year.”
The script was written by Mateusz Pacewicz. “It’s a very good script,” the director says with a smile. “I liked the young man, Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia).” But he felt the original script was a little too easy. “I wanted him to be more trapped. He wanted to hide. I wanted him to feel trapped. When he’s trapped, when he has nowhere to go, he is more interesting.” And with time on his hands and nowhere to go, Daniel starts to change not only himself, but his newfound community.
“Corpus Christi” was selected to represent Poland in the race for Best International Film at the 92nd Academy Awards. Komasa says it’s a great honor to have been chosen. “I’m thrilled.”
The film has played at festivals around the world and was released in theaters in Poland in October. It will continue to be released theatrically throughout Europe in 2020.