Un­godly acts

Pasatiempo - - MOVING IMAGES - — Jonathan Richards

THE CLUB, drama, not rated, in Span­ish with sub­ti­tles, Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts, 2.5 chiles Light has been fo­cused lately on some ugly cor­ners of the Catholic Church, and Chilean di­rec­tor Pablo Lar­raín ( No) probes th­ese dark precincts with this bit­ter, an­gry tale of a sort of half­way house lo­cated in a coastal town near San­ti­ago.

Al­though it’s not im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent who the in­mates are, our sus­pi­cions are soon con­firmed. Four dis­graced priests and one nun live there in not ter­ri­bly re­pen­tant iso­la­tion, fol­low­ing by rote the house rules and a daily sched­ule of pro forma prayer and rit­ual. They’re not all in for sex­ual abuse; one was in­volved in re­lo­cat­ing ba­bies from poor moth­ers to up­scale child­less fam­i­lies. He still be­lieves he was do­ing God’s work.

Father Vi­dal (Al­fredo Cas­tro), an un­apolo­getic child mo­lester, de­votes his time and pas­sion to train­ing a rac­ing grey­hound, Rayo, by stand­ing on the beach and swing­ing a lure at the end of a fish­ing rod so that the dog races around and around, de­scrib­ing a cir­cle in the sand, in­side which the ex-priest seems sym­bol­i­cally con­fined. The nun, Sis­ter Mónica (An­to­nia Zegers), who acts as house­mother, han­dles the dog at the lo­cal track, where the men are for­bid­den to go.

A new­comer to the fra­ter­nity, Father Laz­cano ( José Soza), ar­rives near the film’s be­gin­ning. Shortly af­ter that, a man shows up out­side the house and starts shout­ing an ex­tended, painfully graphic tirade re­count­ing the sex­ual abuse he suf­fered at the new ar­rival’s hands years be­fore as an al­tar boy. The oth­ers seem to dis­tance them­selves from the new priest. Each has his own jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for the ac­tions that have brought him to this pass, and lit­tle sym­pa­thy for the oth­ers.

A sud­den, shock­ing act of vi­o­lence brings the po­lice, to whom the house’s in­mates give a re­hearsed lie about what hap­pened. Shortly af­ter, a Vat­i­can trou­bleshooter, Father Gar­cía (Marcelo Alonso), ap­pears. He in­ter­ro­gates the res­i­dents about their trans­gres­sions, which he must have known from their dossiers, and threat­ens to close down the house. And then what?

Lar­raín has made a damn­ing, provoca­tive, and deeply un­pleas­ant movie, which spares noth­ing about the in­sti­tu­tion that reared and shaped th­ese out­casts and the peo­ple they in turn af­fected. The ef­fects of their cor­rup­tion are not tran­sient. We fol­low up on the shouter, a fish­er­man named San­dokan, whose life has been ir­repara­bly plunged into a liv­ing hell by his child­hood ex­pe­ri­ence. Like the Pinochet regime, the in­sti­tu­tional sins of the church have left an abid­ing legacy in Chile, which, by this bleak as­sess­ment, will not eas­ily be purged.

Foot fault: Marcelo Alonso (kneel­ing) and Roberto Farias

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.