Dark and difficult, it may be, but Pablo Larrain’s El Club is sheer mastery.
CELEBRATED Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain turns his political gaze away from Pinochet – a backdrop he used to great effect in Tony Manero (2008) and No (2012) – to close his lense in on another great institutional evil with startling results.
He takes us to a wind-lashed fishing village in the back end of Chile where four men and a female warden co-habit on the periphery. A strange dynamic is trickled out between the sitting room and the beach front; the four are perpetrators of clerical crimes, ranging from baby-snatching to paedophilia, and have been housed there by the Church to do penance. Their quiet life of prayer and greyhound training is upset when a new priest arrives. Very soon he meets his end, resulting in a Church inquisitor being dispatched to the house to investigate his death.
Larrain’s roving direction and cool framing, Carlos Cabezas’s strings and a roundly excellent cast combine to stunning effect in this magnetic and highly original critique of the Church. Rarely does a drama balance a range of colours – intrigue, repulsion, beauty, dread, humour – with such brazen confidence.
First published in the Sunday Independent