Corpus Christi

Reviewed by Stephen Pye

Polish films have a unique quality, at their best a kind of ethereal brilliance; in part due to the history of the country and it's deeply Roman Catholic heritage.

This was clearly evident in Sunday evening's film at the Alhambra. The film has been nominated for the best foreign Oscar, and, if Sunday evenings audience were the judges, would almost certainly win. Directed by Jan Komasa the storyline (based on true events) concerns a young man just out on parole who has ambitions of becoming a priest, but is prevented from pursuing them because of his criminal conviction.

He finds himself by chance in a small town in the polish countryside. He seeks lodgings in the Vicar's home where a "white lie" sees him become the stand- in vicar following the true vicar's illness and prolonged absence from the parish. He has to rapidly learn how to hear confession and to celebrate Mass. A tragedy has occurred in the community and it is the putative priest's unorthodox and yet compassionate response to this which forms the heart of the film.

The film deals with many Christian themes: salvation, judgement guilt, temptation and repentance; however these are subverted in a way by
being embodied in the priest and his relationships with the town's people, when in actual fact he is not who he claims to be.

The title 'Corpus Christ' refers to the Christian festival which forms the centre and the challenge in the film. It also begs the question is Christ more evident in the body of this young pretend priest than in those who claim to be properly ordained?

All this may sound a little abstruse, but the film is completely captivating and, in its angry denouement, escapes the traditional Hollywood ending. It left me thinking, as a priest, how such a story could only work where secularization had yet to take place. It worked in a small polish town whereas it could never work now in a small town in the Lake District!