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Corpus Christi

A harsh, beautiful exploration of religion and redemption in small-town Poland.


Corpus Christi is one of Poland’s biggest and highest-budget films in years, and the film garnered accolades at festivals worldwide and even received an Academy Award nomination for Best International Film (where it eventually lost to the unstoppable Parasite). At its core, though, it’s a simple and straightforward story: Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia), in prison for second-degree murder, finds solace during the final days of his sentence in the raw, unvarnished teachings of prison priest Father Tomasz (Łukasz Simlat). After he’s released into a grim work furlough and travels to a small town where the job is located, he wanders into the local church to rest and jokes about being the town’s new priest. To his surprise, he’s taken seriously, and his dream suddenly and jarringly becomes a fragile reality.

As the story unfolds, director Jan Komasa elevates what could have simply been a comedic tale of mistaken identity into something much more profound, and manages to tell a story that adeptly balances tragedy and comedy in turn. Daniel’s self-invention is much more than a game – both to him as a felon clinging to the hope of something beyond a dead-end life, and to the town, which is grappling with the aftermath of a tragic accident – and the scenario plays out in alternating scenes of grief and joy that maintain their believability throughout.

Bielenia gives an incredible performance as Daniel, bringing infectious passion to a broad range of scenarios that run the gamut from the pure and priestlike to the decidedly sinful. While the film oscillates between extremes, it never does so frivolously, and Bielenia’s commitment to the role gives Daniel’s actions, and by extension those of the villagers he serves, an unwavering core of humanity. He brings an intense and sometimes manic physicality to the role without ever straying into parody, making the slightly farfetched plot (based nonetheless, ostensibly, on a true story) feel as solid and inevitable as prophecy.

Such nuance is more than welcome in a time of rising populism in Central Europe, and heralds an exciting new era for the talents of Komasa and Bielenia, as well as for Polish cinema as a whole. Corpus Christi delivers a satisfyingly complex and often radical take on the current state of religion and society in Poland, while remaining refreshingly free of easy platitudes or cleanly resolved Hollywood-style resolutions.

John Peck


Original title: Boze cialo
Polen/Frankreich 2019, 115 min
Language: Polish
Genre: Drama
Director: Jan Komasa
Author: Mateusz Pacewicz
DOP: Piotr Sobocinski Jr.
Montage: Przemyslaw Chruscielewski
Music: Evgueni Galperine, Sacha Galperine
Distributor: Arsenal Filmverleih
Cast: Bartosz Bielenia, Eliza Rycembel, Aleksandra Konieczna, Tomasz Zietek
FSK: 16
Release: 03.09.2020




  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles

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