Friday, October 10, 2014

Milwaukee Film Fest 2014: The Priest's Children

Once upon a time there was a young, green priest, Don Fabijan. (Kresimir Mikic) He was saddened by modern ways, like people having sex for pleasure rather than procreation. As such, he felt called to stem the decay of the Croatian island community he sought to lead to the light, a place where the death rate was greater than the birth rate. Then again, this feeling may have been exacerbated by the other older, universally adored priest who excelled everywhere Fabijan was awkward. So when a sheep from his flock named Petar (Niksa Butijer) came and asked him if selling condoms was a sin, he decided to cleanse the sheep of (some of) their sins. How? Well, he decided to use a needle and pierce an imperceptible hole in all the condoms sold in the community. That way, a pregnancy would truly be God's will, not man's. Along the way, they are assisted by a pharmacist and Bosnian war veteran whose time spent in Serb and Muslim camps had left him less than sane, as well as a passionate believer in increasing the Croatian population.

Stop me if you've heard this before. No? Well, I'll keep going then. Naturally, this has consequences for the island. Some they forsee, such a whole lot more pregnancies and marriages. Others they don't, such as an increase in visitors to the island, since it is believed that the high birth rates are due to currents. But darker, more tragic, consequences are also unavoidable.

As those consequences continue and pile up, what begins as laugh out loud comedy soon ends up sparking a less than comedic domino effect. A baby is abandoned in front of the church, leading Petar and his wife Martha to fake a pregnancy so they can pass it off as their own. But the giggles stop when one young woman becomes barren and another dies.

It all leaves the once idealistic Fabijan disillusioned and eager for his end, and us with a harsh indictment on a church, especially the Papacy of the former Benedict XVI, which shows us an institution and the shepherds that represent it imposing its values and the consequences thereof on the rest of the world while literally getting away with murder themselves.

It's all pulled off with excellent performances and exquisite comedic timing, while also making great use of the location and history. The problem is that the more absurdist tone at the beginning of “The Priest's Children” feels like too stark of a contrast for the much bleaker one at the end, especially for a movie that passes itself off as a comedy. Nevertheless, it stands as a very well executed cautionary tale for how our judgments against others become sins in themselves.

Grade: B-

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