The Arthouse Film Festival screened The Club (or “El Club” as its Chilean Title is) recently. The film is presented in its original Spanish, but with English subtitles. The movie revolves around a difficult subject.
In the small ocean town of Boca, Chile, there is a group of aging men. One of them has a trained Greyhound dog, who races it for cash on the side. We come to find that the men are ‘retired’ Catholic priests, but not by their direct admission. One day, another priest is brought to them, to stay in seclusion. A nun oversees the men, and is their caregiver. She instructs the newcomer that he’s welcome, and while they other priests introduce themselves, a homeless guy wanders up and makes it known he knows who the newcomer is. The man is drunkenly shouting that the new priest abused him as a child, and goes in graphic detail. The other priests are annoyed, and hands the newcomer a gun, telling him to fire some warning shots to scare him off. The mortified priest walks out, and instead of scaring the guy off, he shoots himself in the head. The look on his face confirms that he did all the things the man is shouting.
The Church sends an investigator, another priest, and he’s doing more than investigating the situation. It’s likely he’s come to evaluate the effectiveness of the group home, and starts making changes. It seems that all the men were sent there, for various reasons, not because of their ages, but more due to crimes committed. None of them will admit they did anything wrong and stonewall the investigator.
The homeless man, however, is not satisfied with the outcome. He stays in town, getting odd jobs where he can. He wants to confront the other priests, too, and repeats what was done to him. The subject matter of this movie is extremely unpleasant in and of itself.
The priests are trying to ignore their pasts, but cannot avoid their true nature. These men don’t want to attract any special attention, so they devise a plan to get rid of him. They will do anything to prevent the truth from coming out, and enact a plan to eliminate their problems. The horrific plan is discussed, and acted out, but the film cuts away before being “too graphic”. They try to pin the blame for what they have done on the man, wanting the townspeople to kill him, but it backfires. The fact is that these men have become old and bitter, and deny they ever did anything immoral or untoward. Their actions prove otherwise, showing that they are heartless and unrepentant, and will do anything to save their own asses.
I did not like this movie one bit. It was well constructed, but that’s all it has. It’s clear that whoever made this movie has an axe to grind about Catholic priests and their abuses of power, but this movie’s conclusion was weak. They deserve a worse outcome than what the movie provides.