The Club of Silence
Larraín, director of Tony Manero, Post Mortem and No, makes precise choices when approaching the topic of abuses or crimes perpretrated by members of the Church.
In a small town by seaside, there is a house where four priests and a nun live together. They were sent there by the Catholic Church because of the crimes they committed, and they can’t leave the place. Their lives go on quietly, when an unexpected event occurs and a crisis counsellor is sent there to cast light on what happened.
Those priests have been spared jail and protected by the Church. As a matter of fact, in some countries, Church is and has been an alternative reality with its own rules, and the film demonstrates its ability to preserve itself, as it has managed to do throughout the centuries. Therefore, the film’s political angle targets the immense power of the Church in a country like Chile, crushed by a long dictatorship.
Penitence and sacrifice may (arguably) serve as amends to such crimes, at least in a Catholic mentality. Instead, life in this house goes by smoothly. The priests have their own peaceful routine; no one is actually “expiating” their sins. They are not even trying. One of them has been there for such a long time that nobody knows why he was sent there in the first place, and, being affected by senile dementia, he doesn’t even remember. A peculiar way to erase a crime, that was made possible because of this club.
Larraín, director of Tony Manero, Post Mortem and No, makes precise choices when approaching the topic of abuses or crimes perpretrated by members of the Church. In 2015, Oscar-winner Tom McCarthy took the same approach in Spotlight, the same “telling but not showing”, however Larraín examines this using his own method, expanding the forms of “telling” on screen.
At first, the calm mood of the house mirrors the Church’s code of silence. But soon this silence is broken by the voice of a victim coming from outside, that takes the shape of a lament; a litany the priests and the nun can’t silence.
However, Larraín doesn’t stop at the victim’s torment. He focuses on the priests as well, with long and fixed close-ups on their faces, while they tell their stories to the counselor. This is a chance for the audience to step into their mentality, their personal point of view, which is rarely shown in cinema, as this is risky to find the balance to do so.
Not to Larraín. He manages to convey sorrow and contradictions of this eternal issue, also thanks to the foggy cinematography by Sergio Armstrong.
Writers: Guillermo Calderón, Pablo Larraín, Daniel Villalobos
Cast: Alfredo Castro, Roberto Farías, Antonia Zegers, Marcelo Alonso, Jaime Vadell, Alejandro Goic, Alejandro Sieveking, José Soza, Francisco Reyes