The Club

 

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The theme of the Catholic Church’s failure to respond adequately to paedophilia in the priesthood resurfaces, but this time in Chile in an award-winning film by Pablo Larraín.

 

No Chilean director is better known than Pablo Larraín who made his international reputation with a series of films – Tony Manero, Post Mortem, No – which dealt directly with Chile and its history. This powerful new work follows suit as it portrays events in a house run by Sister Monica in the small seaside town of La Boca. It is being used as a residence for paedophile priests sent there to repent in seclusion. Four such priests present at the outset are soon joined by a fifth, Father Lazcano, who firmly denies having committed any sin that would justify his presence there. Nevertheless a young man soon appears asserting at the top of his voice that Father Lazcano abused him when he was an altar boy. This outcry threatens scandal, but in the event it leads to an unexpected incident which brings to La Boca a young priest named Father García. He has been sent there to investigate fully and the expectation is that this will lead to the house being closed.

This is strong stuff (the accusations made are very fully detailed) and there is a very able cast including Alfredo Castro and Antonia Zegers known to us from earlier Larraín films. However, unfamiliar as the theme may be in Chilean cinema, this is ground already covered in this year’s Oscar winner Spotlight and in the gripping documentary Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God. Consequently one looks for elements to hold us afresh and that might indeed have resulted from Larraín’s declared intention to treat the material compassionately. He himself has stressed that, raised in a Catholic school, he has encountered many devout priests but, regardless of that, The Club emerges as an all-out indictment.

 

Club, The

Catholic taste: Alejandro Goic

 

One is not asking for the horrors born of paedophilia to be played down and the gay priests whose guilt never leads to repentance are properly condemned. But, when the outlook and behaviour of Sister Monica and Father García also become highly questionable, The Club comes to seem rigged as an anti-religious work uninterested in subtleties or in a balanced view. Larraín, working again with photographer Sergio Armstrong, favours images that, symbolically or not, are less than clean which I find irritating. But that’s a small point compared to the one-sided approach which, pleasing as it may be to those entirely hostile to religion, makes it easier for Catholics to dismiss a film that ought to trouble them deeply.    

 

MANSEL STIMPSON               

 

Cast: Marcelo Alonso, Antonia Zegers, Alfredo Castro, Roberto Farías, Jaime Vadell, Alejandro Goic, Alejandro Sieveking, José Soza, Francesco Reyes.

 

Dir Pablo Larraín, Pro Juan de Dios Larraín, Screenplay Pablo Larraín, Guillermo Calderón and Daniel Villalobos, Ph Sergio Armstrong, Art Dir Estefanía Larraín, Ed Sebastián Sepúlveda, Music Carlos Cabezas, Costumes Estefanía Larraín.

 
Fabula/Funny Balloons etc.-Network Releasing.
98 mins. Chile/France. 2015. Rel: 25 March 2016. Cert. 18
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