22 April 2018 | EdgarST
The Satanic Rites of Padre Ángel
André Breton once said that Mexico was the most surrealist country in the world and he was right: for its landscapes, its harmony between myth, legend and reality, for its cultural animism, according to which each manifestation of nature, be it a rock or a carnation, has a soul. Those ideas came to my mind while I was watching «Perfect Obedience», Luis Urquiza Mondragón's first film that received many awards in 2014, but which has been numbed by the phariseeism that characterizes our societies... Or is it Satanism, the real one, not the rockers' or snobs' versions, but that Satanism that permeates the strata of power and its acolytes among the middle class, conformed by succubi and incubi, who have nothing to do with fantasy?
«Perfect Obedience» is a film about pedophilia among members of the Catholic Church. It is not an overtly condemnatory work, but is it neither complicit nor exalting. The movie does not gloat when it throws the first stone, but it warns the spectators, as if urging them to look at their own transgressions before becoming the most pious of all. Contradictory in intention sometimes it is, and completely in the final credits, when it warns that it is based on real facts, and then indicates that its characters do not resemble anyone, and its story is not similar to any other. However, those who look for sources know that it is based on the case of the pedophile priest Marcial Maciel, perpetrator of sexual crimes against prepubescent and pubescent boys that were concealed by ecclesiastical authorities of Mexico and the Vatican.
However, the overwhelming accumulation of information and images seems to come from a lot of similar stories. They include rape, drug addiction, alcoholism, sexual blackmail by women and endless aberrations. All this is well known by someone like Urquiza, who spent eight years in a seminary, or like all the ordinary beings that we were aware of (in addition to those who were victims of) the erotic goings-on in the Catholic school where we were educated, among priests, students and teachers.
In the first minutes, with Alejandro Giacomán's omnipresent music, I thought, "Oh, hell, another one of those melodramas buried in musical notes ad nauseam", but as the story progressed the soundtrack was distilled and, seeing the sincerity of the result, I said to myself, "Well, no... this is pure horror cinema!" So if you see it, be warned, not for the thrills of the cheap horror story (which you will not find here), but for the assaults suffered by the young seminarians, mostly off camera or on black screen. The main victims of the humiliations are Julián, whom the head of seminary, the voracious Father Ángel de la Cruz, baptizes as Sacramento Santos (poor Sebastián Aguirre, the same guy from "Güeros"!), and his friend Alberto (Alejandro de Hoyos). These two cases are the ones we know for sure, because we soon deduce that Father Ángel (Juan Manuel Bernal) has raped many infant and adolescent seminarians from the urban and rural Mexican bourgeoisie. Because, mind you, in this the film is not surrealistic at all: it sets aside the heritage of the original peoples and almost all the kids are white, blond, with transparent eyes and dull languor.
What I found most interesting is that the film (written by Urquiza and Ernesto Alcócer, whose book is the basis of the screenplay) does not scourges anybody, but coldly and calculatedly reveals to us the process of domination and control (inspired by words of Saint Ignatius of Loyola) to arrive at "perfect obedience". The film won the Ariel awards for best script, actor (Bernal) and young actor (Aguirre), the Diosa de Plata awards for best young actor (Aguirre) and supporting actor (Juan Ignacio Aranda as Father Galaviz), the Jury Prize for best first film at the Lodz film festival and the Grand Prix des Amériques and Audience awards at the Montréal film festival. Recommended.