Corpus Christi’s story may remind audiences of the kind of film that would’ve been made by the Hollywood system during the 1990s, as a moving slapstick comedy However, Jan Komasa’s latest film couldn’t be further from that world. Daniel (portrayed by an excellent Bartosz Bielenia) is a troubled youth with a violent criminal record that prevents him from achieving his dream goal of becoming a priest. However, when the vicar of the local parish takes a break due to his poor health, Daniel drops his job at the sawmill and passes himself off as a priest, fooling the local population.

This highly dramatic film, a slow-burn based on real events, glows best whenever Daniel is on screen. Bielenia delivers a complicated role with the emotional depths and skill of a seasoned champ. His multifaceted performance will keep you guessing what his intentions are, until the explosive finale. Is religion an escape for Daniel, or does he truly believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Komasa directs this tale with a somber and hushed tone that drives home the importance of character growth, and even manages to bring in a sense of the divine. 

Admittedly, the film falls flat when it comes to its secondary characters, including Marta (Eliza Reycembel) and Lidia (Aleksandra Konieczna), who Daniel first tricks into believing he’s an ordained priest. They just haven’t been developed with the same love and attention that Daniel got. While this is normally not a problem, it becomes a greater situation since Daniel is supposed to be a figurehead for his community. By the time the end credits roll, you’ll be taken aback by Corpus Christi; but also find something beautiful in it’s tragedy. A holy testament, indeed!

Corpus Christi screened at the 55th Chicago International Film Festival as part of the International Competition program. The film will play again on Thursday October 24th at 8:45pm, and Friday October 25th at 12:00pm at AMC River East 21.

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