In the Name Of Malgorzata Szumowska

In the Name Of Malgorzata Szumowska
Similar to her previous, far less successful, directorial outing, Elles, an article was the inspiration for Malgorzata Szumowska's In the Name Of. Being the daughter of noted journalist Maciej Szumowska, her thematically investigative approach to relatively broad issues—be them the role of women in Elles or homosexuality in the Catholic Church here—is a logical progression of vocation blend and it explains the extreme variance in quality of her produced works.

Fortunately, in the case of the quiet character study, In the Name Of, a restrained and contemplative approach—rather than one of a didactic or comparative nature—proves quite effective, making personal and human a topic that's often reduced to single serving headlines and moral platitudes.

Slowly, and without any unnecessary exposition, it details the experience of Adam (Andrzej Chyra), a younger more progressive priest, who is transferred from Warsaw to a rural locale to oversee the church and run a group for at risk boys. At first, his influence is well received; the boys develop a rapport with him and the locals seem at ease with his laid-back demeanour, which, as things progress, is slowly deconstructed, primarily through the arrival of the aggressive and sexually liberal Adrian (Tomasz Schuchardt).

Szumowska's approach to unraveling a repressed, mostly performative, character is that of reaction; his Bad Lieutenant liquor binges are done behind locked doors in response to things he deliberately ignores. Knowing that one of the boys is having strong, ambivalent feelings about his sexual orientation, he mostly avoids the topic, giving superficial penance rather than addressing the issue. Similarly, even after witnessing an act of sodomy between two of his boys, he doesn't verbalize or outwardly react until he's alone, later cleaning himself up and putting on the same face for the locals when he again emerges into the sunlight.

Even Adam's eventual physical acknowledgement of his own hidden urges isn't presented with a judgmental eye. Szumowska is careful to point out that hormones are omnipresent, existing casually in those around the priest, whose disposition—and likely rationale for becoming a man of the cloth—is contrary to his biological imperative.

This presentation of a man who, for all intents and purposes, has genuinely noble intentions, yet creates a paradox for merely existing within an identity attributed mostly through necessity and socially imposed assimilation, is quite fascinating and touching.

It's rare that a film manages to tackle such a controversial concept with such acute observation of the human element, mixing logic, social analysis and sincere emotion in the same package. While slight in its assertions—to the point where some might miss what is really being said-- In the Name Of is the subtle sort of work that lingers long after viewing, adding dimension to a topic that can easily be categorized and dismissed without a great deal of genuine consideration. (MD4)