Directed by: Pablo Larraín
Starring: Alfredo Castro, Roberto Farías, Antonia Zegers
Having extensively dissected the lives of those who lived under the rule of Augusto Pinochet with his loose trilogy of Tony Manero, Post Mortem and No, Chilean director Pablo Larraín was in need of a new focus. Never one to stray too far away from a controversial subject, his gaze has rested on the conspiratorial acts of concealment committed by those determined to protect the public profile of the Catholic church.
While Spotlight clinically exposed cruelties within the clergy, The Club aggressively considers the vicious acts of self-preservation covertly implemented in the name of Institutional Catholicism. The setting is a stormy beach located on the Chilean coast; the sky is perpetually overcast and the waves constantly crash against the shore, it’s far from heaven on earth.
Above this strand sits a bleak house of dingy yellow, where resides a secret club consisting of four defrocked priests (Alfredo Castro, Alejandro Goic, Alejandro Sieveking and Jaime Vadell), who live in isolation with their housekeeper, Sister Mónica (Antonia Zegers). These are men who have perpetuated pure evil through various forms of physical and mental abuse directed at those bound by faith to follow them, and yet here they live in peace; compelled to forget their offenses, not confront them. Their quiet life is interrupted, however, by a shocking moment of violence provoked by the arrival of Father Lazcano (José Soza) and the subsequent appearance of someone from his flock (Roberto Farías), leading to an investigation conducted by clerical counsellor Father García (Marcelo Alonso).Though the script, collaborated on by Guillermo Calderón, Daniel Villalobos and Larraín, shares many of the same concerns Tom McCarthy questioned in his recent Oscar winner, The Club’s examination of the devotion shown by those once dedicated to the cloth has more tonal similarities with the dark energy of John Michael McDonagh’s Calvary. This is a pointed and probing think piece that’s suffused with a savage wit, and uncomfortably antagonising in nature. DP Sergio Armstrong regularly frames the film’s subjects in profile as they discuss the disgraces of their past, encouraging us as audience members to directly challenge the actions of these characters.
An occasionally heavy-handed desire to provoke, particularly during the gruelling final act, is sporadically detaching, but never does it detract from the overall power of the piece. The mood Larraín distils is one of affecting disquiet, amplified through Carlos Cabezas’ expressive score and the captivatingly cold performances of the ensemble. Crucially, the director avoids passing any judgement; he refuses to condemn, or offer clemency. For there is no divine ruling to be heard here, only a dark reality that demands to be recognised.
THE CLUB directed by Pablo Larraín is in UK cinemas now #TheClubFilm