Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Priest's Children

Svećenikova djeca; black comedy/ satire/ drama, Croatia, 2013; D: Vinko Brešan, S: Krešimir Mikić, Nikša Butijer, Dražen Kuhn, Marija Škaričić, Zdenko Botić, Jadranka Đokić, Lazar Ristovski

For the catholic church, using condoms is a sin. A young priest, Don Fabijan, and two very religious people, clerk Petar and pharmacist Marin, join therefor forces and decide to burst small holes on condoms and sell these to the locals of a small Dalmatian island in order to "nullify" that "sin" and also get more "catholic Croat babies". However, the side effects are staggering: unwanted pregnancies lead to two tragedies, the biggest one being the suicide of an underage girl who was left pregnant after getting sexually abused by a local bishop. Fabijan thus quits his profession and confesses to a priest.

With over 155,000 sold tickets at the box office, Vinko Bresan once again managed to hit the nerve of the public and achieve one of the biggest hits of the Croatian cinema of the 21st century. It is a rare example of a satire on some absurd rules of the catholic church and its role in the society of Croatia, whereas the timing was indeed spot on, since the church played a big role the 2013 marriage referendum in that country. The movie starts as a biting satire, with a few clever touches (the protagonist, Don Fabijan, is also the narrator, and in some scenes, we can even see him both acting in an event and narrating it while talking directly to the camera) and (black) humorous jokes, such as the scene where the clerk Petar is confessing to Fabijan that he must sell condoms, even though his wife considers that a sin ("I am killing people before they were born!"). However, Bresan once again did not resist not to insert a few cheap shots that appeal to the low tastes (unnecessary visualization of Fabijan imagining locals having sex) and allowing for his instructive side to take over, adding a few heavy elements of drama and social engagement in the weaker second half of the film, that are not always harmonious. The paedophilia subplot at the end is especially tricky and split the critics, but it enables Bresan to add a point how the Croatian church is just using condoms as a distraction effort from the real sins of some priests that sexually abuse children, yet they are rarely talked about in such loud way.


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