The Priest’s Children directed by Vinko Bresan is one of the more mainstream films I saw at CIFF 2013. It was silly, comical, family-friendly and lacking in substance. However, I don’t feel strongly enough to trash it or dismiss it outright. A film experience like this doesn’t warrant such emotion. My feelings are mixed, somewhere between disappointment and annoyance. I’ll admit though, I was mildly amused.
The premise is plain as day. Set in futuristic Croatia, where the country’s death rate considerably outweighs its birth rate, a man confesses to a priest that he is a murderer. He kills people before they are born, that is, by working for a condom factory. Did that score a chuckle out of you? Then perhaps this is your kind of film. Petar goes on to state that he cannot afford to lose his job, but can’t help feeling guilty for sinning in this manner. The priest lets him in on an idea, one that allows him to eat his cake and have it too. He advises the man to prick a tiny hole in every condom before it is packaged. The two men conspire together on a quest- to reverse the death-rate-to-birth-rate ratio- with the help of an eccentric pharmacist who takes up the task of replacing contraceptives with vitamin pills.
Okay, this is quite an idea. I wanted to see how far the film-makers would stretch such an outlandish premise. But as it turns out, this is essentially a one-joke movie that accommodates gags involving homosexuals, necrophilia, condoms, infidelity and the like. The film just meanders around safe, familiar territory without ever becoming truly outrageous. In addition to that is the presence of a plot, a structured one at that. Film-maker Bresan ensures to remind us that this is indeed a comedy by playing a sing-song whimsical music from time to time. His plot is needlessly sensible, his jokes nonsensical and the incongruity of the two most apparent. And when the film suddenly turns serious in tone, it fails to be bizarre enough for us to be mind-fucked by its absurdity. The film’s neither completely dark, nor truly outrageous.
While the film did score a few chuckles out of me (owing to some clever ideas), it’s barely a passable viewing. I just sat in my seat watching, waiting for the film to finish doing what it was doing. There was nothing I could take seriously in this affair either. Not to say that such is a necessity for a film, or this kind of film, for that matter, but the real problem here is that the film tries to be clean even when it’s dirty. You don’t put the brakes on vulgarity.
Towards the end, melodrama stealthily creeps into this comic fare and you go from simply bored to mildly annoyed. Despite the abundance of vulgarity, this is a light-hearted comedy that sincerely believes (and mistakenly so) it’s pushing the boundaries of perversion.
Also, what are mobile phones doing here? They seem so out of place and are inconsistent with the rather classical aesthetic of the film.