“In The Name Of…”
A Polish Priest
Adam (Andrzej Chyra) is a priest who has been sent to a small rural town in Poland. This was done to move him away from the Parish he had been in and also so that he can work with a group of troubled teens. The town likes him and everything was going fine. Adam has a secret – he’s gay and there were unfounded rumors about an altar boy at his old church. When he decides to take one of the youths, Lukasz (known as Humpty), under his wing, the boundaries between what is and isn’t appropriate become blurred, while those around Adam are prepared to think the worst.
This is a movie that starts slowly—there are characters to meet and we must become accustomed to the Polish way of live before the film really gets underway. We do immediately get the sense that we are going to see problems. We think that this is going to be a film of maligned priests who are gay or about priests who are terrible in their profession and are perhaps pedophiles that the machinations of the church help them as they abuse children. Rather, this is about a world that is difficult where no one seems to do the right thing, yet no one is totally bad. The viewer has to constantly question what he sees on the screen.
When we first see Adam we see that his interest in Lucasz sits somewhere between paternal feelings and intimacy. We can see some scenes as romantic or as an indictment of an older man taking an interest in a youngster for perverse reasons. We do see how easy that can be accomplished. However, as the film continues, the questions become more complicated as we wonder if Adam is actually doing the correct thing. Is the fact that priests must be celibate cause inappropriate things to happen? Is it because many who become priests do so because they are attracted to men? Do men who hide in the priesthood ever real deal with the issue of their sexuality and does the modern world always want to see the bad rather than the good? For me there is one greater question and that is how can the church allow this to happen especially when we look at the history of church abuse?
Things do happen in this film and in this story that should not have happened. However there is no condemnation or commendation of the events. We, the viewers, are left to decide and even the very last shot in the film is ambiguous. Was what happened good for Lucasz or is he trapped in the same situation as is Adam?
The Catholic Church also has no answers. It can no longer hide things as it has done for centuries but it also cannot destroy the life of a man if there is no evidence that he has done something wrong. Is it better to make a mistake in the name of caution or is such a thing unjust and that people see bad in something that is innocent. If Adam is moved around as has been the church’s practice, are not more problems raised than solved. He is still looking for a sense of intimacy. Because of these questions, the movie is frustrating but this is also what makes it so interesting—the viewers have to decide these questions but the movie does indeed take into account human exchanges and interactions as if to say that people are not deliberately bad and we must face the complexities that life brings us. This is not a film that we walk away from and forget. We realize that the world is a difficult place in which to live and there are no easy answers or solutions. There are terrible things in the world but there are also events that are not essentially good or essentially bad.
Today, we hardly get excited about gay priests in Western films, but it is rare that their sexual angst is portrayed as sensitively as in Poland’s “In the Name Of…” which is somewhere in an interesting middle ground between Gothic expressionism and psychological drama and with an excellent cast who give wonderful performances. This new film makes a careful distinction between homosexuality and pedophilia.