DVD Review - In the Name Of (W Imie)

Polish cinema is something about which I know nothing, but Andrzej Chyra was one of the stars of Katyn (2007), the Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. Chyra is apparently a movie star in Poland. For all I know, he's the George Clooney of Poland. Chyra plays Father Adam, a 40-something priest who runs a reformatory for troubled or wayward teenage boys.

It's revealed that Adam was transferred here from Warsaw and that it might be due to reasons that cause him to be transferred again from here. The bishop or head of the church refers to the way Adam looks at the teenage boys, never saying directly but implying that Adam might be a pedophile.

Adam isn't a pedophile. Adam is instead gay, but in a homophobic environment homosexuality is grossly equated to pedophilia when it shouldn't be. Adam starts to develop feelings for one of the boys who probably is of consensual age but arguably those feelings are inappropriate. Those feelings don't form until it becomes obvious that the boy in question, Lukasz, nicknamed Humpty, played by Mateusz Kosciukiewicz, is gay too and in love with the priest.

Nothing sexual happens between Adam and Lukasz. No kiss, no anything, except for the occasional glances! Yet, the careful observer could tell there was a sexual tension there. Adam's friend, Michal, played by Lukasz Simlat, is that careful observer and he's the one who gets the ball rolling that leads to Adam's transfer. When Michal goes to the bishop, there is no surprise and transferring Adam comes as a kind of routine, which is disturbing on two levels.

The first is that transferring priests was the chief criticism in the sexual abuse scandals that plagued the Catholic Church. The fact was that priests who were pedophiles weren't punished through proper legal channels or any channels at all. The church merely transferred the pedophiles from place-to-place, allowing them the potential or even the opportunity to continue abusing. The second thing is that doing the same to Adam unfairly equates him to the status of a pedophile, even though nobody but Adam ever verbalizes that comparison.

This film, directed and co-written by Malgorzata Szumowska, never says outright what happened previously with Adam, but, at no point are we meant to think that Adam is a pedophile or that he's sick. The purpose is to express the difficulty for a man who becomes a priest and has to suppress his sexuality, even when temptation abounds and it's doubly difficult for a man who is secretly gay.

What's implied by the final shot is that Polish society or simply the culture in this particular area might be so homophobic that the only avenue for a gay man who might not have the means of escaping on his own is to join the priesthood. The homophobia or uber-machismo is established early on with shots of the teen boys being so aggressive. For Adam and Lucasz, the option in the end can't be expression. It's only suppression. It's why Szumowska's final shots are the most tragic and the most haunting.

The final shot involves a character looking directly into the camera. It reinforces that a theme of the film is that of "looking." Adam gets in trouble in his previous assignment due to what the bishop refers to as Adam "looking" at boys, implied inappropriately or with that of desire or lust.

Szumowska uses this repeated motif of characters looking at others. It might seem creepy, but there are so many shots of Adam looking or leering at the boys through his living room window or through openings in ajar doors, and typically it's looking at the boys while shirtless playing soccer or even engaging in sexual activity. Yet, it's not just Adam. All the characters are all looking in various ways.

All of the subtle performances from the actors are all great. The boredom of Ewa, played by Maja Ostaszewska, and the alpha dog nature of Adrian, played by Tomasz Schuchardt, are so powerful and effecting when you see them on screen.

Chyra is king among the most powerful and effecting of them all. Every scene and every moment are ripe with such longing and fear, but at the same time such faith and love that you can't help but be drawn to Chyra in all those scenes and moments. A scene where Chyra bursts and he pours himself out to his sister over Skype is wrenching.

Chyra is so repressed that it's such a relief to see him finally get emotions out. Aside from the Skype scene, there are two other scenes that beautifully capture that relief. Szumowska amazingly captures them utilizing the soundtrack in two opposing ways. In a corn field scene where Adam is able to unleash his child-like wonder, Szumowska utilizes the necessity of noise, particularly animal and ape-like sounds. In the final sex scene, where Adam is able to unleash his adult-like need, Szumowska utilizes silence so brilliantly.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but for mature audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 42 mins.


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