• James Rutherford

'Corpus Christi': The Highly Engrossing Tale of a Young Polish Hooligan Masquerading as a Priest


Movie poster for the Polish film Corpus Christi (Boze Cialo)

Corpus Christi (Boże Ciało) (2019) is a highly engrossing Polish drama starring Bartosz Bielenia as Daniel, a young hooligan serving time in a youth detention center for 2nd degree murder. While imprisoned, Daniel has experienced a rapturous spiritual awakening and yearns to become a Catholic priest, though his criminal record forbids such ascendency.


Upon release from incarceration and assignment to a work-release program at a rural sawmill, Daniel detours to the local village in order to visit the Catholic church instead— convincing the resident vicar that he is a newly ordained priest from Kraków. Compelled to leave town for medical treatment, the vicar asks Daniel to govern over the congregation in his absence—an opportunity that Daniel wholeheartedly embraces. The storyline details Daniel’s immersion into the community and attempts to soothe the souls of numerous residents mourning loved ones lost to a deadly accident, while Daniel himself continues to grapple with dark impulses as well as haunting reminders of his sordid past.


Directed by Polish filmmaker Jan Komasa (Warsaw '44, The Hater), Corpus Christi is an enthralling tale of intrigue sparked by uplifting shades of spiritual expressionism. Bielenia is extraordinary in a complex role demanding tenderness, impulsiveness and ferocity in varying measure—his spiritual epiphany and religious piety wholly convincing despite the complexity of his character. A 2019 Oscar nominee for Best International Film, it serves as a fascinating depiction of arduous spiritual redemption beset by acute moral ambiguity.

 

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