News & Analysis

Polish film about church pedophilia breaks box office records

Kler (Clergy), a controversial film by Polish director Wojciech Smarzowski, has broken all records at the Polish box office. Almost one million people saw the film on its opening weekend, breaking the previous record held by Fifty Shades of Grey. This despite some conservative local authorities banning the film from being shown in their local cinemas.

The film, which explores the themes of child abuse, romantic liaisons, corruption, greed and alcoholism by Polish clerics, has been harshly criticised by the country’s far-right government, which has close links to the church.

The film managed to gain much notoriety before its release, thanks to a clever marketing campaign which included clips of the movie being released on YouTube earlier this year. Recent controversies involving priests, as well as Poland’s national television station censoring Mr Smarzowski during an appearance at the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia in mid-September also created interest in the film.

“From the moment of its premiere, Kler has taken the media by storm,” said Dorota Chrobak, a film critic at Money.pl. “The icing on the cake was not giving the film the Golden Clapper award at the Gdynia festival, and censoring the director’s statements during the closing gala.”

While set in in Poland, much of the film was shot in the Czech Republic.

“Nobody would give us permission, they would not let the film crew into the Polish church,” said Mr Smarzowski. “There were also logistical reasons – in Poland there are on average five masses a day in churches. In the Czech Republic it’s once a week.”

Kler will be released in cinemas in several European countries, including the UK, in mid-October. Interest in the film has been particularly keen in the Netherlands.

“I have not seen anything like this for 30 years,” said Małgorzata Bos-Karczewska, editor-in-chief for Polonia.nl.