Review: IN THE NAME OF... Explores The Relationship Between Priesthood And Sexuality
In terms of searching for and exploring its own sexual identity, 2013 turned out to be a rather eventful year for Polish cinema. Controversial films such as Floating Skyscrapers (first openly pro-gay picture), In Hiding (deals with lesbian love in war-torn Poland), and In the Name of... sparked a lot of debates going beyond the borders of the respectable film community. Polish Church, always opposed to projects that might be inconsistent with its own traditional beliefs, criticized the country's emerging directors for their too easy-going and overly bold approach towards the topic of sexuality and its often-striking visual representation on the screens all around Poland.
While In the Name of... feels a bit outdated and definitely isn't as shocking as it might've been 50 years ago, it's still a valuable and interesting voice when put into context of the recent thunderous discussion that concerns pedophilia in the Catholic Church and elsewhere. Growing number of such cases all over the world and many accusations that immediately followed lead to an enormous social critique coming from various environments, including people tightly related to the film world. Young Polish directors trying to find their own artistic selves decided to take matters into their own hands with the help of both a camera and a thought-provoking script.
In In the Name of... Malgorzata Szumowska (Elles) envisions Andrzej Chyra, one of the most prominent Polish actors working today, as priest Adam whose daily activities consisting of working with and helping juvenile delinquents lead to increasing sexual temptations. Burdened by celibacy and lack of self-acceptance Adam uneasily declares his love of God. Presumably sinful desires of his fragile heart are somehow repressed by the growing fear that his past will come to haunt him once again. Due to unmentioned controversies he's been forced to move around the country in the search of a parish that will bless him with a peace of mind, a place that won't turn into a battlefield of his own efforts to overcome covert urges.
It's true that we meet Adam in a difficult moment of his life. He wants to start fresh, striving to re-socialize youngsters in a typical village somewhere in Poland. In this close-knit group of abusive, vulgar and prejudiced young boys there are also those, who got to experience many sides of sexuality and, just like the priest, seem completely lost. What's most distressing, though, is that Szumowska's examination of Polish rural life is very truthful and frequently gives the creeps. Cinematography by Michal Englert confronts this roughness with beautiful shots of pastoral scenery and music by Pawel Mykietyn and Adam Walicki sets the tone for this dramatic portrayal of a broken man.
Chyra's performance is one built on many nuances, thus it feels extremely realistic and emotionally affecting. Behind the black dress of a rural-based priest hides an anxiety-ridden person who is consciously aware of his faults and the thoughts that trouble his mind. He refuses to make love to a woman who confesses her love, but even the most unassuming touch of a younger man always comforts his troubled soul. Though a beloved and respected priest with no visible imperfections, Adam feels most at ease when surrounded by a crowd of shirtless boys jumping into a lake and that prompts accusations. He's on the verge of a breakdown when he realizes that he can't fight nature with deep faith and escapism.
Provoked by a shocking event, Adam soon descends into a rage. In a scene that's more ridiculous than scandalous, he dances around his house with a bottle of vodka in one hand and with Pope's portrait in the other. Later on, he tells his sister that he's a faggot, not a pedophile. He likes boys, but he never did anything to hurt them. He's only a human after all, and when he gets close with a local boy Lukasz (Mateusz Kosciukiewicz), the quiet bond that forms keeps him further from God but, ironically, closer to the ultimate truth about himself. Lukasz's age is never mentioned and that makes Adam's drunken confession all the more plausible.
Unfortunately, when harsh accusations pile up in a chaotic and uncontrollable manner Adam is pressured to leave. Despite that it's not as powerful and groundbreaking as The Hunt, In the Name of... perfectly depicts a disturbing situation where one hasty conclusion is capable of altering the reality of a wrongly accused person. His departure, however, is linked to a bigger question the film only touches upon - can it be true that high-ranking priests are actually turning a blind eye to pedophilia-related charges? It's a shame that the film concludes with a most manipulative and naïve scene that somewhat downgrades the importance of all those notions that the film wholeheartedly aspires to explore.
Although In the Name of... is almost deprived of subtlety and quite often struggles to support its own opinion, the narrative never fails to induce feelings of despondency. The camera breaks into Adam's private life in order to convince the audience that the consequences of the raised subject are unpreventable. In his example actions don't follow thoughts, but there are those who will definitely take advantage of a similar opportunity.
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