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Berlin Film Festival 2013: 'In the Name Of' review

★★☆☆☆
Malgoska Szumowska's In the Name Of (W imie, 2013) is first out the blocks in the race for this year's Golden Bear prize. An uneven, yet innovative examination of love through the constraints of the Catholic church, Szumowska's follow up to the underwhelming Elles (2011) is a patchy affair that asks its audience to cast the first stone. Adam (Andrzej Chyra) is a Catholic priest who discovered his calling late in life. He's slowly found a niche for himself working in rural Poland helping young orphaned boys with behavioural problems reintegrate into society. It's an insular life and not one suited to a man whose soul hungers for companionship.

Celibacy seemed like a natural progression for Adam, for whom the compassion of woman holds no interest. However, Adam's disinterest in the fairer race has nothing to do with his religion, as he desires men - a sexual inclination deemed by his own religious beliefs as both amoral and intrinsically evil. However, when Adam meets Lukasz he finds himself caught between his profession and his crippling need to be loved. His infatuation remains well-hidden, yet when a young boy in his care commits suicide, he finds himself under the harsh judicial glare of the church.

In the Name Of is beautifully shot through a haze of warm sunsets and glistening skies, evoking the majesty of creation, in a way that perfectly reflects it spiritual backdrop. Sadly, behind this sumptuous imagery lies a film that needs to be far more concise and assured of its message, a fact that becomes achingly apparent as the film flits through multiple finales - clearly unsure how best to tie up its myriad of loose ends. That's not to say that there aren't genuine moments of ingenuity; primarily the testosterone and angst-filled rural town that Adam resides in making a rather fitting metaphor for the hostility towards homosexuality held by the Catholic church. God may well have a place of residence here, yet this is a peculiarly godless town.

Commendable for taking its subject matter away from the well-trodden grounds of child abuse (and playfully toying with this theme to heighten its dramatic climax), this portrait of a love that must not be spoken is far too insecure in its own identity and tonally sporadic on numerous occasions to successfully portray the internal anguish of its conflicted protagonist. Throw in some heavy-handed, non-too-subtle metaphors for Adam and Lukasz's unrequited romance, and you have a film that lacks enough maturity and guile to deal with such a sensitive and controversial subject.

As a drama about repression and loneliness, In the Name Of works best when left to observe its captivating protagonist. However, once Szumowska ventures away from this priest who yearns to love (only to become a victim to his own faith), and moves toward the broader subject of Catholicism's archaic stance towards homosexuality, the foundations of this frail film collapse under the weight of its indecisive approach.

The 2013 Berlin Film Festival runs from 7-17 February. For more of our Berlinale coverage, simply follow this link.

Patrick Gamble

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