Records have been broken at the Polish box office by a new controversial film by Polish director Wojciech Smarzowski, named after the Polish word for clergy, Kler. The film explores themes of child abuse, corruption, romantic liaisons, alcoholism and greed by Polish clerics.
Close to 1 million people saw the film on its opening weekend, breaking the previous record held by Fifty Shades of Grey, despite some conservative local authorities banning the film from being shown in their local cinemas.
The film gained quite a bit of notoriety before its release, thanks in part to a clever marketing campaign which included clips of the movie being released on YouTube earlier this year.
The debut of the film shines a light on the Polish church’s role in concealing cases of pedophilia, an issue largely ignored in the staunchly Roman Catholic nation, despite public outcries in the United States and Ireland.
“From the moment of its premiere, Kler has taken the media by storm,” said Dorota Chrobak, a film critic at Money.pl. “The icing on the cake was not giving the film the Golden Clapper award at the Gdynia festival, and censoring the director’s statements during the closing gala.”
On Tuesday, an appellate court in Poznan, Poland, upheld a 1 million zloty ($269,000) fine on the church in a case of a priest who was convicted of imprisoning and raping a 13-year-old girl -an unprecedented ruling for the religious institution in the east European country.
“The film amounts to a very serious conversation with Poles” about the sins of the church, Janusz Gajos, who plays an archbishop in the movie, told TVN24. “It should be a shock — we know of many incidents that are unimaginable, which take place behind the church’s curtains and whose perpetrators are then protected.”
Kler is set to be released in cinemas in several European countries, including the UK, in mid-October.
“I have not seen anything like this for 30 years,” said Małgorzata Bos-Karczewska, editor-in-chief for Polonia.nl.
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