Director: Malgorzata Szumowska
Starring: Andrzej Chyra, Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, Lukasz Simlat, Maja Ostaszewska
Release Date: January 24th
The concept of a homosexual priest torn between his faith and his sexuality is not necessarily an original motif, yet Malgorzata Szumowska’s latest work succeeds in providing a more intimate and surprisingly complex perspective on this highly delicate subject than perhaps has ever been seen before on film.
With the horrors of past child abuse crimes committed by members of the church coming to light in the last decade, it would have been all too easy to create a film centred on the evil paedophiliac priest preying on vulnerable young boys. Instead, Szumowska sensitively portrays a man facing a deep internal struggle and prompts the question as to where the line between predator and a man merely looking for a deeper human connection is drawn.
Andrzej Chyra plays Father Adam, the conflicted parish priest of a backwater Polish community where he has opened up a reformative centre for troubled young men. Here he works side by side with pious layman Michal (Lukasz Simlat) in teaching the boys respect and responsibility through physical labour and comradeship with great results, earning Father Adam the recognition and admiration of his bishop.
His barely concealed alcoholism and growing sense of isolation within the sprawling countryside threaten to become his undoing. Particularly when he begins to find himself emotionally drawn to the Christ-like teenage figure of Lukasz (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz). Here, Father Adam is man teetering on the edge of priestly responsibility and personal longing.
Temptation lies everywhere, from the bottles of alcohol smuggled by the boys into the camp to the sexual advances made towards him by Michal’s dissatisfied wife Ewa (Maja Ostaszewska) to whom he wryly replies. “I’m taken.”
Szumowska is non-judgemental of her protagonist’s emotional conflict. In fact, Father Adam is as sympathetic a character as possible, embodying the difference between paedophilia and homosexuality.
Father Adam is not a predator; rather he is man who stands to lose everything by giving into his sexual longings. Lukasz and Father Adam are two lonely souls who manage to find in one another something that could bring them a forbidden happiness.
Michel Englert’s stellar cinematography explores the duality of the bright sun-dappled world of community and human connection, which becomes suffocating as the film progresses, and the dark, blue-tinted world of church-enforced isolation.
Szumowska only ever touches on the willingness of the church to turn a blind eye to its own discrepancies. The narrative’s main focus never strays far from Father Adam. This film is not a social or political critique, but an immensely moving story of longing and human connection.
In a nutshell: A decisively thoughtful and visually stimulating depiction of a man’s struggle to conciliate his religious belief with his sexuality.