Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zeggers, Marcelo Alonso, Roberto Farias
98mins Thriller Chile
Chilean director Pablo Larraín is well-known for exploring the dark corners of his homeland to ferret out a few skeleton’s from the nation’s history. THE CLUB is such a story. There is always a place for his regular collaborator Alfredo Castro in these dark and often gloomy dramas. In this one, Castro (From Afar) gets a leading role hiding out in a windswept coastal backwater as a crusty old paedophile priest, Padre Vidal. And he’s not alone, sharing his grim beachhouse are four other priests, serving time for a variety of sexual misdemeanours in the name of God. Victoria Zeggers is Sister Monica, the young woman who keeps house for these miserable old men whose only pleasure in life is their obsession with a jointly- owned greyhound they race at competitive meets.
Sergio Armstrong’s cinematography captures the wide open emptiness of gloomy seascapes beaten by winds and endlessly suffused by a dank and dreary fog. The old buggers (quite literally) are on their last legs, rationed in their movements and deprived of any kind of physical enjoyment with limited contact with the outside world. It’s a sobering regime but a bearable one, until one night a troubled fisherman Sandokan (Roberto Farías) fetches up in the front garden hurling an unsavoury humiliating accusations at the one of the priests. His gripe, it appears, results from being repeatedly sexual abused in childhood by one of the priests. This toe-curling outpouring is unspeakably filthy and the men of God are mortified by this public take-down that is met the follow day by the arrival of Father García (Marcelo Alonso) with a mission to close down this cosy little seaside set-up. Father García is rather sultry and inappropriately attractive for the job in hand, leaving us wondering about his own motives in the scandalous affair.
THE CLUB is a sinister and suspenseful piece of filmmaking. A palpable tension hovers over proceedings like heavy fog drifting in from the sea; continually threatening but always managing to contain is subversive undercurrents. Guillermo Calderón and Daniel Villalobos contribute to a screenplay that villifies the characters but never completely demonises them, leaving much wit and wisdom for all to enjoy in the devilish den of iniquity. “I am the king of the repressed,” says Father Vidal (Castro). Darrain’s El Club is not an edifying story but an fascinating one. Meredith J Taylor.
ON RELEASE FROM 25 MARCH 2016 | REVIEWED AT BERLINALE 2015