Pablo Larraín takes on the Catholic Church in this astonishing drama
If there’s something that can be said about history, it’s that forgetfulness is too often the greatest of conveniences. If that seems like a serious way to begin, that’s because, despite smatterings of twisted humour, Pablo Larraín’s The Club is an extremely serious film – one that sees its central characters caught up in an existence where forgetting the past is their only means of facing the present.
The Club is set in the serene Chilean fishing town of La Boca, where four priests (played by Alfredo Castro, Alejandro Goic, Alejandro Sieveking and Jaime Vadell), along with their officious female caretaker (Antonia Zegers) reside in seclusion away from the community. The priests spend their idle days training a greyhound who has become a source of profit for them at the local racing tracks. However, their comfortable life is soon shattered when a fifth priest (José Soza) is brought into their midst, rekindling in the men disturbing memories.
The film mostly plays out through a series of investigatory conversations, most notably between the quintet and a church reformer (Marcelo Alonso), each peeling back layers to reveal deeper levels of guilt. It soon becomes clear – when a fisherman, played by Roberto Farías, graphically recounts his experience of sexual abuse – that this isn’t intended to be an easy watch. Sergio Armstrong’s cinematography, which is both beautifying and murky, contributes effectively to this unnerving experience. But what could have been an overly harrowing tale is eerily intriguing under the intelligent direction of Chilean native Larraín, as the tension builds towards an unforgettable climax.
With The Club and his previous films, including the Oscar-nominated No, Larraín continues to position himself alongside the likes of Andrey Zvyagintsev and Cristian Mungiu, as a director who isn’t afraid to underscore his work with pointed assertions against his homeland. And in making a film this damning, he reinforces the idea that filmmaking can be an essential tool in exploring darker truths that may have been hidden over time. Ultimately, the most astonishing thing about The Club is not how it takes aim at the muddied history of the Catholic Church in Chile, but that it simultaneously, and just as effectively, serves as an allegory relating to a nation’s political corruption.
Selected release from Fri 25 Mar.