The problem with Priest is that it has a lot of things to say without knowing how to say them. It wants to tackle certain issues about faith, religion, and the carnal desires of Man, but doesn’t provide any angle, which, in turn, doesn’t provide any outcome. The issues are just there, waiting to be addressed by various people.
There are three main issues: 1) the violation of the vow of celibacy, 2) incest, and 3) homosexuality. All three are prevalent in today’s society, especially when it involves priests and the holy people. I myself am Catholic, and I’m aware of the rules and regulations laid down by Man that govern the livelihood of priests. They can’t get married, they can’t have children, they can’t have sex, and they can’t have an income. There are vows upon vows which they have to take. It’s to purify their spiritual life. But what about their physical life? What happens when these vows interfere with natural instinct?
We are introduced to two priests. Both of them have violated their vows, but one is modern enough to accept it. The other believes that whatever is written in the Bible, and whatever has been laid down by Man, is the be all and end all of the human existence. So when he confronts his violations, he cannot stomach his own actions. He is Father Greg (Linus Roache), and he’s gay. Already he is battling himself. The other is Father Matthew (Tom Wilkinson). He’s older, and he’s been having an affair with the pretty housemaid. Greg, of course, finds this repulsive, and sinful. Matthew believes that the rules of Man should not control how Man behaves. He is what the Church should be; Greg is what the Church has always been, and what it is now.
That’s one issue addressed, but not solved. Should priests be allowed to marry? Perhaps the whole point of the movie is to not provide an answer.
The second issue is Greg’s homosexuality. He, I am sure, is the spokesperson for all gay priests out there who have nowhere to turn and no one to go to. Especially when their superiors are prehistoric and foul, like the bishop in Priest. Many movies portray bishops and cardinals as old men who don’t believe in reformation, in the advancement of the Catholic Church. They always seem to be content with where they are now, and with how all the rules are right and just. There is some truth in this stereotype. The Church today is falling behind. It is losing the attention of the youth, and slowly it will lose the attention of the elderly. The apparent lesson Greg has to learn is that there is more to faith and religion than merely following rules; there is freedom too.
The third issue is incest, but the movie doesn’t see it as part of the whole. It is a separate story that adds to the already bubbling conflict within Greg. He is pulled into the lives of Lisa — a young girl who has been sexually abused by her father — and her family. There is a scene in the confessional booth where the father confronts Greg and orders him to stay out of the way. He begins defending his own actions and promoting incest, claiming it’s the most natural thing to do. Is he simply agitating Greg, or is he advertising incest as something we should all do?
So what is Priest trying to say, if anything at all? What is its message? Is it speaking to priests, or to us as well? It lays down all these questions, and tries to get us emotionally involved with them, but then it doesn’t go anywhere. What is the journey Greg has taken? He does something wrong, by Church standards, and pays the price for it. He then seeks forgiveness, which we find out is harder earned than received. The movie has beautiful locations and lovely vast landscapes; it has strong performances that move us, but what is it all for? I think director Antonia Bird is so concerned with keeping the peace that she has failed to make a movie with any real depth.
Best Moment | Yeah it’s cheesy, but I thought the ending was rather moving.
Worst Moment | The confusing opening scene.