Polish Cinema: In the Name Of (Malgorzata Szumowska, 2013, Poland)

    In the Name Of is a compelling albeit flawed character study from director Malgorzata Szumowska. Despite being a film about a gay priest wrestling with his hidden sexuality, Szumowska’s treatment of the subject matter is remarkably apolitical. Rather than analyzing the Church at a macro-level, she instead hones in on a rural Polish village. The life of the film takes place here, and the film exceeds most at capturing the rhythm and quality of day-to-day existence. 
    Andrzej Chyra, hardly recognizable as a priest outside of his robes, plays our protagonist with as much nuance as the script allows. Given the task of watching over a group of juvenile delinquents, we see that he does his best to serve as a mentor and guide to the young men.
    Priest Adam encounters temptation at every turn, and this is perhaps where the script is at its weakest. The film descends into melodrama as so many character seem to also harbor homosexual desire. The film also lacks dynamism in the later acts. While certain scenes - such as a scene in which Priest Adam bursts out in a drunken stupor - bring energy, for the most part the film meanders gloomily along.
    The film is worth watching for its portrayal of village life in Poland. We see the Church as the anchor of the community. Faith in and of itself is not touched upon, but rather the social and structural nature of religion in Poland is presented. Coupled with this, Szumowska’s cinematographer brings an almost documentary-approach to the juveniles’ activities, allowing us to observe with naturalism how such young men would behave and speak in real life.
    The supporting cast - Mateusz Kosciukiewicz as Adam’s love interest Lukasz, Lukasz Simlat as the local teacher Michal, and Maja Ostaszewska as his wife Ewa, also do a good job at bringing the locale to life.



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