Film Review: Pablo Larraín’s “El Club”

Things take time in a village, so it took months for “El Club” to hit the local cinema. When it was released in the UK earlier this year, this film received rave reviews. Most reviewers mention four bad priests, but things are far more complicated and interesting!

These reviewers forget about the nun – or is she one? Monica dons a nun’s outfit when it suits her. She worked as a nun throughout the world and returned to Chili with an adoptive African daughter. According to Monica, her mother wrongfully accused her of maltreating her daughter because Monica’s mother did not like a coloured grand-daughter. But like so many stories told in this film: is this the truth, or a fib, or a blatant lie and denial as well as covering up of the truth?

When the audience is introduced to “el Club” of priests and their caretaker, all five wear ordinary clothes and behave like anybody in their village. They own a dog and this Galgo wins races. The main headache of the club is how to enter their dog in more important races. It has already earned them a tidy sum.

The house where the club resides, looks like a home for pensioned-off elderly priests. Their boss turns up with another priest whom he foists on them. Unable to refuse, it is clear the new member is not welcome. However: someone turns up at the gate shouting he has been sexually abused by this priest. The priest commits suicide.

Now the club has a major headache. The boss turns up again, with a young priest. This young priest will stay with the club to investigate what happened. When one of the club riffles through his belongings, dossiers on all of the club members – bar one – are discovered.

The ex-nun is not the only one fibbing, hiding, denying, covering up things. Each club-member has a past and sins which need to remain hidden – including the young priest.

Towards the end, things turn nasty. If you are a dog- or animal-lover, this definitely is no film for you! But perhaps The film music composed by Arvo Pärt might haunt and please you.

At the end, the club are blackmailed into accepting another new member and the young priest leaves. The new member is no priest but a traumatized fisherman who lists over thirty pills he daily needs to function. His batch of drugs are obtained over the counter without presciptions, from a local apothecary.

So it seems the young priest cum investigator has won the battle. The club is forced into submission in order to preserve their home and way of living. They have to take care of their new club-member.

Yet – having watched this club operate for over one-and-a-half hours, one wonders. How long before this club will start tampering with the many coloured thirty-something or so pills? How long before they compete in dog-races again?

All in all a highly interesting film – provided one can stomach the violence and animal cruelty. It cynically and realistically illustrates how the Catholic church deals with crime within its own ranks. The suicide is covered up and none of the priests or nun will ever face the inside of a court of justice.

Leaves two questions. Does the young priest symbolises Pope Francis’ new church? Does the latest addition to the club represents all victims of the Roman Catholic church the world over? You had better go and watch and then decide for yourself.

“El Club”, released in 2015, directed, co-produced and co-written by Pablo Larraín.
Main cast: Roberto Farias, Antonia Zegers, Alfredo Castro, Alejandro Goic, Alejandro Sieveking, Jaime Vadell, Marcelo Alonso.
Film music: Arvo Pärt
This film won the 65th Berlin Film Festival’s Jury Grand Prix and received excellent reviews in the UK.
Youtube trailer “El Club”

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