“I am not here to pray mechanically” says Daniel while addressing the mass for the very first time in Corpus Christi. He says that the only way he knows to pray is through the bottom of his heart. That very much sums his felonious and deceptive journey towards priesthood. Neither Daniel has gotten any institutional or seminary training nor has been designated by the appropriate authorities to carry out his duties as a priest. He reads the instructions and absolutions of a confession from his smart phone. The scene is nerve racking, as you never know when his veil would be lifted by one wrong move. The retributive measures he asks the penitent to carry out are amusing yet practical.
Corpus Christi that literally means “body of Christ”, is a 2019 Polish Drama. It is directed by Jan Komasa. Daniel played by the revealing eyed Bartosz Bielenia, is serving a punishment in the juvenile detention centre for committing murder. During the sentence he realizes that his inner calling is that of becoming a priest. The sermons of Father Tomasz (Lukasz Simlat) have a deep impact on his disposition. But soon he is being told that due to his criminal record, he can’t enroll in nay seminary. Father Tomasz sets him up in a saw mill post his release. Daniel never goes to the saw mill, instead visits the nearby church. He pretends to be a priest and starts filling in for the old clergymen and performing all his canonical duties. Much to his amazement the simpletons of the city accept his new found ways. But soon he finds himself stuck in a position that puts his rectitude and virtues to test.
The Power of Absolution
The director asks this question that who gives the power to absolve a sin. When the luminary himself was incapacitated then who is to decide and on what parameters that who is going be the successor. Daniel was himself a believer. He may not be well versed in the biblical texts and surely couldn’t be considered as an erudite person in that subject matter. It is a fact and the film does not deny it. It shows Daniel preparing for his sermons overnight as he has no textual knowledge of how to conduct them. But when God spoke to Moses which is repeatedly mentioned in the Old Testament, did he check his seminary qualifications before doing so. It is made sure through several scenes in the narrative that his conscience is clear and it is the most essential trait that an oracle should possess above everything. Yes there was deception when it came to his enrollment in a seminary but is that sole rationale on which someone will be bared to speak for God. What about the profound impact his unconventional method has on the people of the town. The people are hesitant at first because they are not used to such pragmatic ruthlessness in their sermons. But with time this pragmatic ruthlessness starts affecting them at a psychological level. His design of speaking to the people and preaching them might be called flamboyant and glamorous to an extent but not ostentatious by any means.
The town is struggling to cope up with an accident that took place a few months back. Many lives were lost and many were affected. When the loss becomes personal it becomes difficult to differentiate between the good from bad and the virtuous from the unchaste. The people need to blame someone. That is the basic human behavior. They need to take out their anguish on somebody. Daniel faces the most precarious question of his life. It’s here that his conscience is put to real test.
Jan Komasa questions our moral compass. He makes use of the haunting and unpredictable body language of Batosz Bielenia to address the fickle nature of the people. The director operates in extreme scenarios but also tells us the rudimentary principle of life- “to err is humane”
Corpus Christi (Polish: Boże Ciało) is a Polish drama film directed by Jan Komasa and written by Mateusz Pacewicz. the film was premiered at 2019 Venice Film Festival Venice Days section where it won the Europa Cinemas Label Award and the Edipo Re Inclusion Award.
Corpus Christi is available on Video-on Demand.
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