FC@Berlin 2019, Dispatch 4 – Francois Ozon shines a ‘spotlight’ on the Church and paedophilia

Posted on February 11, 2019

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Read the full article on Film Companion, here: https://www.filmcompanion.in/berlin-film-festival-2019-review-francois-ozon-baradwaj-rangan/

Plus, a defiantly anti-narrative Mongolian drama that harks back to the heady days of “art cinema”.

It’s June 2014. We are in the very classy home of Alexandre (Melvil Poupaud), a devout man, a caring husband, and a loving father of five. When the family goes to their church in Lyon, the softest of light falls around them through the stained glass windows — but this slice of heaven is accompanied by a visitor from hell. To Alexandre’s dismay, he discovers that his childhood priest Father Preynat (Bernard Verley) — the man who molested him and many other boys, over years — has returned to the neighbourhood and is now teaching Bible Studies to pre-teens. As Alexandre writhes in torment, his wife says something unusual, unexpected: “You have to tell the kids.” What follows is a conversation around the dining table, an apt metaphor for how hurts from the past keep finding a way to slice through the life we’ve made for ourselves.

By the Grace of God — a matter-of-fact, Spotlight-like procedural woven around the Church and paedophilia — is new territory for François Ozon, whose sensual work typically embraces a different kind of carnality. At first, it appears that the film is going to dramatise Alexandre’s unrelenting quest to expose the priest and the institution that protected him. With the church’s psychologist in attendance, he confronts Father Preynat. Will the older man deny these charges? Will he ask for forgiveness? And even if he does, will that be enough to pour salve over Alexandre’s long-festering soul? To everyone’s surprise, Father Preynat says, simply, “It’s a blot on my life.” He admits he is attracted to children. And the affair turns more complicated. Preynat confessed to his superiors and begged them to not put him in charge of young boys anymore. But they did nothing. Who’s the bigger sinner, now? The doer? Or the enabler?

Continued at the link above.

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Posted in: Film Festivals