Festival Review: The Club / El Club (2015)

The Club

A scurrilous comedy about degenerate priests, Pablo Larrain’s The Club rides a dark political undercurrent as God’s rejects refuse to see the light.

Holy Orders

by Mark Wilshin

El Club

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

Opening with a verse from Genesis in which God divides the world into lightness and dark, you might wonder why Pablo Larrain’s The Club is haunted by a strange chiaroscuro which keeps the faces of its protagonists in perpetual darkness. Until, that is, we learn that this shabby group of men training their greyhound to win big money at the races are in fact excommunicated priests, and exiled to the miserable coastal town of El Boca. Whether homosexual, betraying the secrets of the confessional (from Pinochet’s murderous soldiers) or redressing the balance of unwanted babies and parents desperate to adopt in a baby selling racket, these rejected men of God are the church’s guilty secret, the truth about which would damage the church’s holy name. Their unholy idyll is shattered though when their “house of penance and repentance” receives a new member – a priest from Chillan who has been pursued by a former altar boy and abuse victim Sandokan and is now shouting his mouth off. And it’s enough to see Padre Lazcano put a bullet through his head. Terrorised by Sandokan and investigated by “beautiful priest” Padre García, the forgotten band of ecclesiastical rejects comes under threat as their little club is deprived of drink and its cherished greyhound – the only dog mentioned in the Bible. With brilliant performances from Larrain regular Alfredo Castro and Alejandro Goic, The Club is a delightful black comedy set against a seething political undercurrent of lies, collaboration, violence and corruption. Pinochet’s dictatorship and the Church’s role in it casts a dark shadow, but with a delicious “hell is other people” ending in which the club is granted a reprieve as long as they live out their days with their victim Sandokan, Larrain’s film depicts something of contemporary Chile – condemned to face its demons on a daily basis. And as we pan out on the ex-priests mournfully imploring God to take away the sins of the world – it’s a precarious secret, perhaps contained for now but not forgotten.

The Club was shown at the 65th Berlin Film Festival and is now showing at the 59th London Film Festival

Join the discussion