The Catholic Church Inc. 2.0
And on the eight day God created Sin. From that new heady vantage of deception on the ninth day he created Business. Business was shrewd and ruthless but needed a way to make it’s voice worldly and finally on the tenth day he made Religion. For the rest of eternity he spent justifying his heinous actions no matter how egregious their form begat.
We could pretty leave it at that really and say no more about director Pablo Larrain’s intense but necessary new feature film ‘The Club’ (2015), but in the world of artifice that is imbued with the heavily controlled and filtered information of main stream media, the evidently global and systematic rape of children is generally not covered, well maybe to proclaim the latest accused establishment figure innocent (until they are conveniently dead) and the victim mentally unstable. Of course the victims don’t deserve any consideration when some ‘celeb’ has left their band, or there’s a new range of trainers just released in a pop up toilet. Evidently we all willingly walk in the valley of darkness.
‘The Club’ is a tough watch of adult story telling, deservedly so. It’s also an essential watch. No matter how many various nominated figures are proclaimed ‘heroes’ by the mainstream, the very same mainstream who hide everything from us, the real heroes are the ones who step up no matter what the cost to defend others. They don’t do it for the recognition, nor monetary gain or for the latest product range, they do it because they are human and have empathy. They do it because they are compelled to. Their faith in humanity and not some virtual figurehead in the clouds demands it. As such Pablo is a real hero.
The premise of the feature is devastatingly simple. A humble innocuous looking house resides within walking distance of a beach on the coast of Chile. Situated at the end of a cul-de-sac it doesn’t get much traffic nor visitors, which suits the inhabitants of the house just fine, being that they are priests from the Catholic Church who have repeatedly raped and abused children. They no longer practice in churches, but have been conveniently removed and sent on permanent vacation. In theory it’s not supposed to be a vacation, though the resident house keeper (and herself an ex nun) makes sure they want for nothing plying them with regular hearty meals and plentiful bottles of wine, that’s of course when they are not training their greyhound for extra cash won at local bet laden races. Prison it ain’t. The only way they could mock the world any more is by naming the dog ‘Penance’, thankfully they don’t.
Even though the feature isn’t based on actual events, anyone familiar with Alex Gibney’s justly atheist making documentary ‘Mea Maxima Culpa’ (2012) will be well aware of systematic practices of the Church looking after it’s ‘own’ to protect it’s image no matter what horrid actions have happened, and no doubt since the beginning of it’s formation. Pablo’s homeland Chile had similar levels of abuse on par with Ireland (and many other countries) where it was uncovered that all levels of government were involved in cover ups for decades. It was also the subject of the excellent Oscar winning movie ‘Spotlight’ (2015) which covered the actual historical journalistic investigation into priests abusing children in Boston. It beggars belief that the church is still allowed to operate.
The peace of the resident priests is disrupted when dark memories return to confront one of them. That results in an intervention of the Church by sending in a young priest Father Garcia (Marcelo Alonso) to effectively enact damage control. From all the pontification of the so called modern Church one could be led to believe there is a genuine desire to rectify the rape of no doubt hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of children over the years, but it’s closer to an image revamp. Garcia recognises that the priests have a very comfortable existence and clearly have no sense of contrition for their actions. Not only is that unsavoury in his eyes, but it could also paint the business (Church) in a further inglorious light should the world hear about this. So he starts to introduce changes.
What happens is horrific, fascinating, astute, realistic and admirably executed by everyone concerned with immaculate performances all round. With regular speeches by the current Pope Francis proclaiming the desire to deal with it’s long history of child abuse, they are still just speeches until the tens of thousands of priests who have abused are in jail. What Pablo has to say is far closer to the truth in my book of no religious faith.
It is an excellently rendered and considered work, showing the total ramifications throughout society when the criminal actions of individuals go unfettered and how they destroy lives forever. This destruction not only affects the abused but also those all around them, and as such society in general. It may sound like a tough watch, but it is excellent adult drama of an extremely important nature and such works really are the stepping stones to climbing out of the valleys of darkness that many chose to hide in.
The Club is out now.