Pablo Larraín’s EL CLUB, where ‘troublesome’ priests are put in hiding.

El Club

The Chilean director Pablo Larraín is know mostly for his trilogy set during the Pinochet dictatorship Tony Manero (2008), Post Mortem (2010) and the Oscar nominated No (2012).
The tone of El Club (The Club) is more reminiscent of the at times extremely grimm Tony Manero and Post Mortem than of the more enjoyable No which is no wonder since his most recent film deals with pedophile priest who -instead of publicly addressing the issue- are being put in hiding by the Catholic Church in remote and secluded houses.

The trouble starts with the arrival of the most recent ‘guest’ in such a secret house referred to as ‘The Club’ situated in the coastal village of La Boca Navidad.  When shortly afterwards one of his former victims (role for Roberto Farías a Larraín regular) shows up and starts yelling drunkenly -for all the neighbours to hear- what has happened to him, including the sexual abuse he has undergone, the other ‘guests’ urge the situation to be dealt with which leads to a dramatic event.
When another modern day priest ( Marcelo Alonso, another frequent Larraín collaborator including his HBO Latin America series Prófugos) arrives to investigate the incident, or rather tries to have the priests confess to what has really happened, they all have difficulty telling the truth as self deception is the order of the day.

Visually Pablo Larraín has chosen to depict the self deception by using extremely wide-angle lenses which have a distorting effect, especially when faces are filmed up close. But even in the opening shots of the film, where one of the priests is training a greyhound on the beach which he has taking part in dograces to earn a little extra money, Larraín uses the wide-angle lenses to introduce one of the excommunicated priests.
The effect is most apparent in the confession/interrogation scenes. When the young priest asks a question he’s being photographed ‘normally’ and each time we cut back to the priests replying they are filmed with the dissorting effect.
The fact that theses lenses are being used to visualise the self deceptive or lying nature of the interviewees becomes extremely clear when the during one of the interrogations sessions the nun who takes care of the priests but who has a somewhat shady past of her own, suddenly starts talking ‘frankly’. The moment she threatens to go to the media and bring the affair to the public eye and basically calls the interrogator’s bluff she’s suddenly filmed with ‘normal’ lenses as well.

Due to the subject matter and the grimm tone this film will definitely not be everybody’s cup of tea. The film does not have any images depicting the sexual child abuse but the dialogues pull no punches.

Jan Bollen

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