Memorable, crazy movie
Good concept, poorly executed.
A great movie, one of the best of this year. There was a bit of confusion at one point in the plot, but nothing serious.
It’s sentimental, ridiculously long and only occasionally funny
This is a disjointed, uninteresting moving. Scenes that should only last a minute go on for what seem like hours. Oh, it is so avant garde to have Adam walking along a country road for hours (!) carrying a monstrance with rock and roll sound track over. Really? Could have been so much more effective if done with less footage. Episodes occur that just don't seem to connect, and yet we know where everything is going, but there is so much superfluous crap along the way, that any intelligent viewer's attention is quickly lost. And every now and then a Polish cow lows in the distance or background off camera. What? Who are some of the earlier characters that appear in Adam's excursion to .... to .... to .... what? And how the hell does this movie end? He what? Who is that lurking in the near off-frame? Oh, yeah. But WHY? There is no connection to what went before really. The ending has no reason for why it is as it is. I found this one of the worst movies I have ever watched. Is this Polish gay cinema now? Snore!
Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska accomplishes an outstandingly effective, brave examination of Catholic priesthood with all the inherent difficulties both within the life of being a celibate priest in a time when the world's eye is focused on the abuses within the Church. She wrote the screenplay with Michal Englert who also is the cinematographer. The film succeeds not only because of the sensitivity of the script but also because of the extraordinary acting by several of the members of the cast. Adam (the brilliant actor Andrzej Chyra) is a Jesuit Catholic priest who discovered his calling as a servant of God at the relatively late age of 21 and has been transferred to many different parishes – the reasons are not completely clear. He is a kind, warm, caring and committed priest who truly cares of this flock. He now lives in a village in rural Poland where he works with teenagers with behavioral problems who fight and yell abuse. He declines the advances of a young brunette named Ewa (Maja Ostaszewska) saying he is already spoken for: Ewa is the love reason Adam's associate teacher Michal (Lukasz Simlat) left the seminary and never became a priest. But celibacy is not the only reason for his rejection. Adam knows that he desires men and that his embrace of the priesthood has been a flight from his own sexuality. When he meets Lukasz (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, the director's husband), the strange and tongue-tied son of a simple rural family, Adam's self-imposed abstinence becomes a heavy burden. He hears the confession of a teen who has had a same sex encounter elsewhere and when a new addition to the camp Adrian/Blondie (Tomasz Schuchardt), the lad is seduced by Blondie and the result is the lad's suicide by hanging. Lukasz sustains a beating and seeks Adam's solace and healing at night, and that innocent tender encounter is observed by Michal. The Bishop is alerted and Adam must leave for yet another assignment. He is followed by Lukasz and at last Adam's quandary is at least for the moment resolved.The film is rich in metaphorical scenes – a Skype call between Adam and his Toronto based sister shares Adam's desperate need to have someone to hug, Adam turns to drinking and in his altered state he drunkenly dances with a photograph of the Pope – his only allowed passion, a funeral scene for the fallen lad, and a mesmerizingly beautiful religious celebration parade full of overtones. The film may for some be too huge in character depth and audiences more attuned to action based movies it might be too slow and deep and fragmented. Were it not for the brilliance of Andrzej Chyra's Adam the film may even offend some. But the total experience of the film is deeply moving.
Andrej Chyra (Father Adam), Mateusz Koskiukiewicz (the tongue-tied Lukasz) and Tomas Schuchard (the streetwise Blondie)are superb. But this is writer/director Malgorzata Szumowski's film and it is original, fresh. It proves once again the power of art to make sympathetic a character you wouldn't have believed was worthy of consideration based on the facts alone. I mean the conscience-tormented Father Adam who is enveloped in a haze of homoeroticism generated by the late-teenage youths at a Polish reformatory camp. Given the emotional and affectional undernourishment among both the adults and the youths it is unsurprising that desire emerges here and there. But Father Adam is no predator pedophile exploiting altar boys. He is a sincere man devoted to the well-being of his wards and his temptations come in the form of youths past the age of consent played by actors well-past that age.
I saw this film as part of the official Competition section of the Berlinale 2013. The theme at hand is very relevant in the context of child abuse as came to light in recent years, but there is more to it than that in this film. While the "children" in this film are nearly old enough to count as consensual adults, there is always the relationship between teacher and pupil to block any sort of romantic involvement. And there is the issue of celibacy for Roman Catholic priests. And if that is not enough, any intimacy between men and boys (whatever their age) is frowned upon by not only the church but also not accepted by the average man/woman in the street. The scenario contains elements of all these issues, mixed together in a believable story line.As a bonus we see also the dilemmas that the church has to face when becoming aware that things are deviating from the official path. Our main character, priest Adam, has a proved track record of having a positive influence at all locations where he worked before. Nevertheless, there was always something going on, allegedly or not, that the church could not approve. And even when proving untrue rumors after all, it could have repercussions on their charitable work by the sheer suggestion alone. A transfer to a different place with the proverbial clean slate is then the next best thing the clerical hierarchy can do in their context, since dismissing him would be a loss for the social work that the church wants to continue at any price.All of the above issues are intermixed in this film. That is done in such a way that one has difficulties to choose for either side, even for or against the church who is often maneuvered in a difficult position. And there is always some form of collateral damage due to suddenly broken relationships, deserving our pity as well. The perfect casting and superb acting carry this film and make into a believable piece of work. Having lived devoid of religious beliefs for the greater part of my life, I cannot follow in the footsteps of most of the characters in this film. And we should not forget this this happens in Poland, but even being from The Netherlands where I live, we know that their actions and beliefs are not extreme or otherwise unbelievable.