Chilean director Pablo Larrain is back with Berlin’s 2015 Jury Grand Prize: El Club.
After a tragic incident occurred, a crisis councilor is sent by the Catholic Church to a remote town in order to investigate disgraced and highly corrupted priests secluded in a house to wash their sins.
Exploring a difficult subject, Pablo Larrain deals with the situation with tact allowing strong moments by slowly building an inevitable confrontation between the leading characters. Several of his regulars actors (Antonia Zegers, Roberto Farias, Alfredo Castro) back to play the main characters and we are in for strong acting performances that are pivotal to the success of this slow paced chamber drama. In depicting a church more interested in preserving its reputation than really going to the root of the problem, Larrain doesn’t play the card of cheap sentimental dramas often inherent to these kind of productions when it comes out, for example, of Hollywood big studios. Inquisitive at first, their sentinel gets to a point where he would rather sweep things under the rug and be ready to forget these events ever occurred rather than revealing the whole painful truth.
El Club is not without flaws. The shadowy cinematography while beautiful and helpful in creating the climax can become tiresome. Also, some odd use of music seems misplaced at times. The soundtrack also includes haunting pieces by minimalist Estonian composer Arvö Pärt which always works but also reflects (Pärt is borrowed from on more than 60 films in the 2000’s) the lack of imagination in the music department.
Overall, the evolving psychology of the characters and the strong cast make this drama a strong entry in Chilean Cinema, a rather well balanced film, despite its flaws, and an important fictional work on a controversial and difficult subject.
See also: https://cinetalk.net/tag/oscars-2016/