Her protagonist is torn between passion and social norms. He is a priest struggling with his sexuality and although the film's ending is debatable, Szumowska gives us a uniquely sensitive portrait of a gay priest
Still from Małgorzata Szumowska's "In the Name of...", photo; Anna Wawrzycka-Atach.
Father Adam (Szumowska regular Andrzej Chyra) the humble, much-liked pastor, well-read, good mannered, who puts others needs above his own - in short - a human being falling just short of clerical perfection. In the eyes of his bishop who transfers him from Warsaw to a village in the Mazury region, "Father Adam's faith shines bright and he has a talent for doing extraordinary things". In the countryside, he opens a centre for troubled boys there, and with his carrot and stick approach, he manages to tame the foul language and manners of the vulgar adolescents.
Małgorzata Szumowska's protagonist is however not as candid as he appears. He keeps the details of his complicated past a secret. "He is a man struggling with loneliness," Szumowska said in an interview. He is aware of his homosexual desires and that his embrace of the priesthood has been a flight from his own sexuality. He fights to repress his desires but a leopard can't change his spots and when he meets Szczepan (played by All That I Love's Mateusz Kościukiewicz). Adam's self-imposed abstinence becomes a heavy burden. "An atmosphere of danger and violence holds the whole film in thrall, and against this backdrop Father Adam’s personal drama emerges" Hollywood Reporter's Deborah Young wrote.
Longing for Closeness
Critics, including The Guardian's Mike McCahill and The Hollywood Reporter see the film in gay-pride categories, a "conflicted-cleric subgenre encompassing everything from The Thorn Birds to Antonia Bird's Priest". Berlinale director (where the film won Best Feature Film 2013 in the Teddy Award category 2013), Dieter Kosslick called it "a very up-to-date commentary about the present situation in Church". But you can't judge a book by its cover and In the Name Of is a drama about unfulfillment and the constant battle between society and individuality.
After rebuffing the sexual advances of an attractive woman who drags him onto the dance floor, Adam ends up dancing with his self-imposed life partner, represented here by a portrait of Pope Benedict. But the film goes far beyond propped up, unrealistic scenes. The priest's desperation is revealed during a Skype conversation with his sister in Toronto.
Still from Malgorzata Szumowska's "In the Name Of", photo: Michał Englert
According to Culture.pl's own Bartosz Staszczyszyn in this film Szumowska's usual wild imagination and craziness isn't the continuously controversial in Poland topic but her use, or over-use of religious symbolism which draws the attention away from her protagonist. "She boldly refers to the symbolicism of pieta, she draws from Mantegna's art and shows the scene of seduction around the symbolic of the Garden of Eve." - he write, "But instead of strengthening the psychological accents, all of that draws the attention away from what is most important - the portrait of the protagonist."
For his role as Father Adam, Andrzej Chyra was awarded at the 38th Gdynia Film Festival. Poland considers him its most talented actor of his generation (right alongside Robert Więckiewicz). The Hollywoord Reporter review reads,
Chyra never stumbles in his tough but engaging portrait of a sincerely devout priest with human failings, establishing a close bond with the viewer from the first scenes. The proximity of the sacred and the profane in his ministry make him at once a magnetic authority figure with a real vocation and a fragile fellow much in need of a hug.
The film gives a chance to "the Polish arm of Lars von Trier's Zentropa Entertainments" i.e. Szumowska to redeem herself after the critically unpopular Elles but In the Name Of's ending raises doubts about the likelihood of a thumping comeback. Hollywood Reporter calls it "a dignified finale with a small-scale surprise", The Guardian: a debatable gotcha-like ending. Spoiler alert, the protagonist undergoes a surprising transition.
In the Name Of / W imię...comes to cinemas across Poland on the 20th of September 2013.
Read more about Malgoska Szumowska and her films on Culture.pl
- In the Name Of / W imię..., Poland 2013, Director: Małgorzata Szumowska, Script: Małgorzata Szumowska, Michał Englert, cinematography: Michał Englert, music: Paweł Mykietyn, Adam Walicki, set design: Marek Zawierucha, editing: Jacek Drosio. Cast: Andrzej Chyra, Mateusz Kościukiewicz, Łukasz Simlat, Maja Ostaszewska, Tomasz Schuchardt.
Author: MJ 19.10.2013
Sources: Bartosz Staszczyszyn for culture.pl, Hollywoord Reporter, The Guardian, Berlinale