Polish writer and director Wojciech Smarzowski has been known to cause a stir with his controversial movies in the past, and his latest feature might be his most contentious to date. Kler, which translates as Clergy in English, is a black comedy drama that follows three Catholic priests. On the anniversary of a night that changed their lives, Andrzej (Arkadiusz Jakubik), Tadeusz (Robert Wieckiewicz), and Leszek (Jacek Braciak) get together for an alcohol fuelled reunion, and we bear witness to the very different paths they’ve taken.
Shocking subjects are explored in a style that is as sinister as it is satirical, and the story is akin to that of a crime genre flick. Split into three narrative strands, we see the past and present trials and tribulations of the clergyman unfold underneath the control of powerful Archbishop Mordowicz, brilliantly presented like the manipulative kingpin of an organised crime group.
The central trio of protagonist performances are strong, and from a ridiculous opening scene that could be a stag do pulled from an episode of Father Ted, they break off into contrasting turns. Wieckiewicz is bullish and brooding, Braciak is sly and slippery, while honourable Jakubik is the closest thing the film has to a moral compass.
What the characters share is the depth and development that the filmmaker and co-writer Rzehak’s screenplay gives them, dissecting their sinful psyches to reveal the hurt and humanity lurking beneath the cloth and dog collars. Smarzowski attacks the corruption of Roman Catholicism from behind the camera lens with powerful propagandic piece Kler, but it’s a directorial damning that’s delivered with deft deliberation and a darkly dry sense of humour.
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