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To Kill a Priest
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  • to kill resistence
    TO KILL A PRIEST (1988)
    directed by Agnieszka Holland
    approx. 2 hours

    This movie is about the Polish "Solidarity" movement - a labor movement that the Communist state considered to be a domestic threat. This movie accurately shows the central government thugs monitoring, arresting and even killing citizens for the simple act of dissent. This didn't take place in the 1910s or 1940s but as recently as the early 1980s! Its worth pointing out that Solidarity wasn't exclusively a Catholic phenomenon and that it was more like a coalition of non-communist peoples. This movie is based on a real priest named Jerzy Popieluszko who aligned himself with Solidarity against the wishes of his superiors. Poland was in a state of martial law and it was an extremely risky time to criticize the government.

    Now on to the movie. The direction is beautiful but the writing drags at parts. However what holds the movie back is the casting. A lot of times this is a problem when making a movie for an American audience about a European setting (for example, some characters in this movie have accents, others don't). Actors Tim Roth and Ed Harris gave great performances but seem a little out of place. Christopher Lambert of "HIGHLANDER" fame plays the priest somewhat comfortably but only a limited range of emotion is shown with his character.

    Nevertheless many of the details of the movie are important and included in the dialogue. The movie did not need to be as long as it was, but one interesting thing it shows is how living in a "surveillance state" affects the families of government operatives. You can see a wife who fears that her husband will be murdered because she believes propaganda that Solidarity is a terrorist group. You also see a lonely son who is untrusted by his peers because his father works against religion. Finally, this movie is worth seeing as it details the last gasp of a Soviet satellite struggling to crush public opposition.

    Polish director Agnieszka Holland is perhaps best known in the US for her movie adaptation of the book 'THE SECRET GARDEN'.

    To the best of my knowledge, this movie has never been released on DVD format!...more info
  • See it for Ed Harris
    Ed Harris plays an up-and-coming secret policeman in mid 1980ys Poland in this morality film about the communist crackdown on the Solidarity movement. The film also gives us Christopher Lambert as a soft-spoken Priest who outdoes his superiors in antagonizing the communists. Supposedly based upon a true story, yPriesty seems to pit Harrisys secret policeman against Lambertys noble and fearless priest during the period of martial law, but the story soon focuses on Harrisys character and makes him the battleground for war of Polandys soul. As Stefan, Harris gamely goes after Lambertys Alec. Though prodded by his superiors y especially Joss Ackland as a morally dubious police chief who tries to get Stefan to murder the priest without having to order him to do it y Stefan finds his efforts undercut by spineless toadies unwilling to openly confront the opposition. Though repeatedly arresting and releasing the priest, Stefanys communist chiefs keep the pressure on both of them, tearing Stefan apart. Stefan, we learn, is the proud lineage of unregenerate Stalinists. Though the nominal chiefs of Poland, the shared popularity of the Solidarity movement and the Church isolates Stefan and his circle, further driving Stefan to the edge.

    This was a good film when it becomes Stefanys story. Harris is so good, you forget that heys otherwise miscast (the quintessential American, Harris is surrounded with Europeans like Lambert, Ackland, Tim Roth as a fellow officer or Pete Posthelthwaite as a Solidarity supporter), and really has nobody to work with. Also, the film doesnyt really play up itys best story y Stefanys disintegration. Why Harris has his character go to pieces isnyt clear. Stefan is intelligent and dogmatic. Early on, however, he shows signs that he may be a bit of a devout Catholic himself (while caught on video yinfiltratingy a Solidarity rally attended by other loyal churchgoers). Though he strenuously insists it was an act to help him blend in, why he feels subject to the very whims of his spineless superiors (who release Stefanys prisoners during frequent Amnesties) is unclear. Neither does he feel he owes anything to his parentsy generation (they had the opportunity to rid Poland of the Church years before the Solidarity movement existsed, and squandered it). Rather than explore the two sides of Stefanys soul over which the Church and the Communists fight, the script relegates Stefan into one of the combatants, an ill-fated move sealed with Harrisys closing speech. Lambert seems woefully miscast y and I like him in other movies. However, the script has him squaring off defiantly against the communists as if they worked for the Kurgan from the highlander movies. Much of the problem is that this is an historical movie robbed of its force by later history. The Polandys communists are gone, and even the solidarity movement needed to shift its attentions to other threats to Polandys well being. Still a great film for Ed Harris fans....more info

  • to kill resistence
    TO KILL A PRIEST (1988)
    directed by Agnieszka Holland
    approx. 2 hours

    This movie is about the Polish "Solidarity" movement - a labor movement that the Communist state considered to be a domestic threat. This movie accurately shows the central government thugs monitoring, arresting and even killing citizens for the simple act of dissent. This didn't take place in the 1910s or 1940s but as recently as the early 1980s! Its worth pointing out that Solidarity wasn't exclusively a Catholic phenomenon and that it was more like a coalition of non-communist peoples. This movie is based on a real priest named Jerzy Popieluszko who aligned himself with Solidarity against the wishes of his superiors. Poland was in a state of martial law and it was an extremely risky time to criticize the government.

    Now on to the movie. The direction is beautiful but the writing drags at parts. However what holds the movie back is the casting. A lot of times this is a problem when making a movie for an American audience about a European setting (for example, some characters in this movie have accents, others don't). Actors Tim Roth and Ed Harris gave great performances but seem a little out of place. Christopher Lambert of "HIGHLANDER" fame plays the priest somewhat comfortably but only a limited range of emotion is shown with his character.

    Nevertheless many of the details of the movie are important and included in the dialogue. The movie did not need to be as long as it was, but one interesting thing it shows is how living in a "surveillance state" affects the families of government operatives. You can see a wife who fears that her husband will be murdered because she believes propaganda that Solidarity is a terrorist group. You also see a lonely son who is untrusted by his peers because his father works against religion. Finally, this movie is worth seeing as it details the last gasp of a Soviet satellite struggling to crush public opposition.

    Polish director Agnieszka Holland is perhaps best known in the US for her movie adaptation of the book 'THE SECRET GARDEN'.

    To the best of my knowledge, this movie has never been released on DVD format!...more info
  • Wanted to like it,but couldn't.
    TO KILL A PRIEST has all the makings for a really great movie;an outstanding director in Agnieska Holland (Europa,Europa,Secret Garden,Copying Beethoven),a worthy subject matter about human struggle,and fine actors in Lambert,Harris,Auckland,Roth,Spall and Postlethwaite.Then why was I so disappointed?I can only point to the fact that all of the actors were the wrong choices for the roles.I simply could not buy any of them as authentic-especially Lambert, who brought no umpf to the radical,government defying priest.Harris,who in later years overwhelms us with his performances in THE HOURS and THE TRUMAN SHOW, seems to not be sure who and what he is supposed to be.Because the actors and director all are from different nationalities I can surmise that something was lost in translation.The one thing I did enjoy was the opening and closing solidarity song so beautifully sung by Joan Baez.All of the above mentioned people have moved on to do outstanding work in their perspective fields,but this film seemed more to be a learning experience for all of them.Still, the information about the problems that Poland faced before their break with Communism makes the film worth one viewing.I would suggest the Danish film DAENS which IMO is far superior when recounting a priest's struggle with the Church and Government....more info
  • See it for Ed Harris
    Ed Harris plays an up-and-coming secret policeman in mid 1980?s Poland in this morality film about the communist crackdown on the Solidarity movement. The film also gives us Christopher Lambert as a soft-spoken Priest who outdoes his superiors in antagonizing the communists. Supposedly based upon a true story, ?Priest? seems to pit Harris?s secret policeman against Lambert?s noble and fearless priest during the period of martial law, but the story soon focuses on Harris?s character and makes him the battleground for war of Poland?s soul. As Stefan, Harris gamely goes after Lambert?s Alec. Though prodded by his superiors ? especially Joss Ackland as a morally dubious police chief who tries to get Stefan to murder the priest without having to order him to do it ? Stefan finds his efforts undercut by spineless toadies unwilling to openly confront the opposition. Though repeatedly arresting and releasing the priest, Stefan?s communist chiefs keep the pressure on both of them, tearing Stefan apart. Stefan, we learn, is the proud lineage of unregenerate Stalinists. Though the nominal chiefs of Poland, the shared popularity of the Solidarity movement and the Church isolates Stefan and his circle, further driving Stefan to the edge.

    This was a good film when it becomes Stefan?s story. Harris is so good, you forget that he?s otherwise miscast (the quintessential American, Harris is surrounded with Europeans like Lambert, Ackland, Tim Roth as a fellow officer or Pete Posthelthwaite as a Solidarity supporter), and really has nobody to work with. Also, the film doesn?t really play up it?s best story ? Stefan?s disintegration. Why Harris has his character go to pieces isn?t clear. Stefan is intelligent and dogmatic. Early on, however, he shows signs that he may be a bit of a devout Catholic himself (while caught on video ?infiltrating? a Solidarity rally attended by other loyal churchgoers). Though he strenuously insists it was an act to help him blend in, why he feels subject to the very whims of his spineless superiors (who release Stefan?s prisoners during frequent Amnesties) is unclear. Neither does he feel he owes anything to his parents? generation (they had the opportunity to rid Poland of the Church years before the Solidarity movement existsed, and squandered it). Rather than explore the two sides of Stefan?s soul over which the Church and the Communists fight, the script relegates Stefan into one of the combatants, an ill-fated move sealed with Harris?s closing speech. Lambert seems woefully miscast ? and I like him in other movies. However, the script has him squaring off defiantly against the communists as if they worked for the Kurgan from the highlander movies. Much of the problem is that this is an historical movie robbed of its force by later history. The Poland?s communists are gone, and even the solidarity movement needed to shift its attentions to other threats to Poland?s well being. Still a great film for Ed Harris fans....more info

  • Deserving a widescreen DVD release
    Excellent performances abound. Christopher Lambert in one of his early acting (rather than more recent "movie star") roles. Joss Ackland is his stalwart, dependable best. But it's Ed Harris's flick, one for the portfolio, at a time when he was still (largely) flying under everyone's radar. This reviewer's introduction to Tim Roth and Pete Postlethwaite, as well. Memorable stuff.

    Looking forward to seeing director Holland's fine Solidarity tale on a remastered, anamorphic widescreen DVD....more info
  • Wanted to like it,but couldn't.
    TO KILL A PRIEST has all the makings for a really great movie;an outstanding director in Agnieska Holland (Europa,Europa,Secret Garden,Copying Beethoven),a worthy subject matter about human struggle,and fine actors in Lambert,Harris,Auckland,Roth,Spall and Postlethwaite.Then why was I so disappointed?I can only point to the fact that all of the actors were the wrong choices for the roles.I simply could not buy any of them as authentic-especially Lambert, who brought no umpf to the radical,government defying priest.Harris,who in later years overwhelms us with his performances in THE HOURS and THE TRUMAN SHOW, seems to not be sure who and what he is supposed to be.Because the actors and director all are from different nationalities I can surmise that something was lost in translation.The one thing I did enjoy was the opening and closing solidarity song so beautifully sung by Joan Baez.All of the above mentioned people have moved on to do outstanding work in their perspective fields,but this film seemed more to be a learning experience for all of them.Still, the information about the problems that Poland faced before their break with Communism makes the film worth one viewing.I would suggest the Danish film DAENS which IMO is far superior when recounting a priest's struggle with the Church and Government....more info