The Catholic Church has always played a pivotal role in the moral and cultural “upkeep” of Poland, so it’s fascinating that an openly gay lawyer and a transgender deputy speaker currently sit in the Polish Parliament – the first such parliamentary members in Eastern Europe.
And then there’s Magoka Szumowska’s In the Name Of, this year’s opening gala film at the Inside Out Film Festival. Though it’s garnering international acclaim (winning a Teddy from the Berlin Film Festival), the film is sure to be controversial when it is released in Poland later this year. In spite of the aforementioned context, the director asserts she didn’t set out to cause scandal, and her film is meant to be a universal story of a man’s isolation and longing.
Andrzej Chyra (a veteran of Polish cinema, acclaimed for roles in films dealing with contemporary Poland) plays the gay priest, Father Adam, who falls in love with a young and beautiful Lukasz, aka Dynia (translated to Humpty), played by Mateusz Kociukiewicz. Their story takes time to unfold and is supported by tales from one of Adam’s wards, Gajo, (Father Adam runs a centre for troubled youth) who is having problems accepting his homosexuality, and Ewa, an unfulfilled alcoholic housewife who tries unsuccessfully to seduce Father Adam. Yes, that’s right: Adam and Eve.
Father Adam wears regular clothes when not leading the sermon, works and hangs out with the boys, drinks beer and, in a moving conversation with his sister, asks, “Do you have anyone to hug?” This poignant moment highlights the difficulty of leading a spiritual life in a physically attractive body and the fact that a priest is also “just a man” – a point made by one of the inhabitants of the village in which the story takes place. Father Adam is a good but lost man, and in Dynia he finds respite and solace. It’s no accident that the curly haired and bearded Dynia resembles the image of a Slavic Christ who has come to save Adam.
Scenes of shirtless teenaged boys playing soccer and smoking pot are cut with clips of them swimming or Father Adam masturbating, and the sex scene between Gajo and Blondie will bring to mind some of the Bel Ami porn sets of the late 1990s. Catholicism and faith remain integral elements of Poland’s sociocultural climate, which makes it that much more interesting that Szumowska manages to weave them into a film that is both thought-provoking and homoerotic.