Direction: Wojciech Smarzowski
A rabble-rousing glimpse into clerical scandals become disturbing on several levels in Clergy, an unexpected Poland box-office hit directed by Wojciech Smarzowski, whose works always feel like tough nuts to crack for the ones in command of that country. The director is known for his severe tone and denunciatory bluntness, aspects mirrored in previous efforts such as The Dark House (2009), a bitter look at corruption and greediness in the communist Civic Militia, Traffic Department (2013), where the weaknesses of a debased Warsaw Police Department bare naked, and Rose (2011), a historical drama with the ethnic nationalism that crushed the Masurian people as the topic.
Even though this film is categorized as a black comedy, there are very few reasons to laugh as we follow three Catholic priests, all survivors from a devastating fire, being caught in a series of embarrassing transgressions that are systematically covered up by sovereign ecclesiastics.
Father Andrzej Kukula (Arkadiusz Jakubik) is accused to rape an altar boy and now faces the wrath of the local people; the supercilious Father Leszek Lisowski (Jacek Braciak) is a curia worker who deliberately sins through bribery and greediness; the alcoholic Father Tadeusz Trybus (Robert Wieckiewicz) gets his younger housekeeper pregnant, encouraging her to abort. Each of them has corruption staining their souls, just like the opulent Archbishop Mardowicz (Janusz Gajos), who wants to build a sanctuary with dirty money.
With the polemics invading a country that is right-winged and predominantly Catholic, Smarzowski now deals with vigorous accolades on one hand and serious threats on the other. He seems to have put the finger right in the center of the wound with this strongly thematic bleak tale. Although far from outstanding in its execution, the film served to re-initiate inflamed yet necessary debates about well-known abuses in the Catholic Church worldwide.