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A film that needed to be made
punishable-by-death1 November 2015
Unfortunately, child abuse and the Catholic Church go hand in hand, with offenders rarely being punished. I went to a Catholic school, and years after I had left it was reported that one of the priests working there as a principal had in fact had sexual affairs with minors. It is an ugly, almost taboo subject to talk about, causing this film to be all the more courageous and confronting.

One thing is certain very soon into EL CLUB; Pope Francis and the Vatican would love to sweep this film under a rug, much like the estranged priests we meet. They live together in a secluded house and they are hidden from society; the hours that they are able to go outside are very limited. The home is run by a nun-turned-caretaker, and it functions as a sort of priest retirement home, with one clearly suffering from some sort of dementia. This though is a retirement home with a difference, as it is a house for priests with… certain skeletons lurking in their closet.

However, their serenity and separation from their past evaporate as a fifth priest arrives with his own skeletons, not to mention a former altar boy following him. The viewer is immediately put to the test, as the obviously unstable man outside the house is crying out this new priests' name and recalling, in extremely graphic detail, their more intimate time together. At first he is a character yelling drunkenly outside the house, but later he becomes a pivotal character in the story.

He is Sandoken, a troubled and bruised man who was obviously sexually abused as a child. More than once he describes what happened to him as a child, further testing the viewer. The new priest's arrival and Sandoken's outbursts stir the pot, as soon the priests find themselves being interrogated by someone hired by the caretaker as a 'spiritual director', who works for the church and wants to speak to everyone separately and truthfully.

These scenes make up about a third or a quarter of the movie, as each priest and the caretaker are interviewed. This man's true mission is to have these priests confess to what they have done. These one-on-one talks are very deliberately filmed, as after each question is asked, we see an extreme facial close-up of the priest in question, emphasising the issues at hand, while at the same time soaking in the emotions that wash over the face of the character being interviewed.

The rules of the house change dramatically once this man enters the picture. Suddenly no alcohol is permitted, among other things. One of the priests owns a greyhound who he enters in races to bet on. It is an activity that all the men enjoy, but since this adviser has started poking his nose into their activities, he takes an interest in the greyhound; though not the sort of interest the priest would want. This 'spiritual director' doesn't seem to understand the reason for keeping an animal, so he asks directly, why keep the dog? This man works for the church but is extremely passive aggressive in his actions and particularly in his words and questions.

Having been raised Catholic, going to a Catholic school, this film resonated with me in a way I wasn't expecting. While I don't consider myself religious anymore, I found myself immersed and being reminded of the real life horrors this film is based on, wishing that it could all stop, that priests' records could become public.

Guilt and secrecy are the main themes here, with EL CLUB serving as a portrayal of priests with reasons to hide certain acts. The 'spiritual director' only wants them to confess, he doesn't really want to dig up their secrets. He is after all a man of the church. However, each priest is hesitant. This theme runs parallel with real life, as priests who have committed sins of this nature want them buried and forgotten about, rather than confessing. Ironic, considering part of their day-job is to listen to confessions.

That these priests have been sent to a remote house rather than remaining in the public eye also mirrors reality, as again the church would rather forget these issues ever occurred rather that revealing the truth.

This movie was made in Chile, and the events depicted were no doubt influenced by local issues: a man who was known to at least be involved in pedophile behaviour was assigned as bishop for Chile's armed forces, by the Pope himself. This caused an unprecedented level of outrage and protests by victims of abuse. All these people are represented in the character of Sandoken, broken and confused, unable to find direction. A bit like the hierarchy of the Catholic Church really, but that is a story for another day, and a long one at that. A heavy watch then, but one gets the sense that it was a film that needed to be made. Avoid this if you're not ready for a very heavy drama.
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TIFF 2015 -- The Club: Exposing evil through brutal honesty
Brap-220 September 2015
Pablo Larrain (No) returns with another story that shadows his country with 'The Club'. Before the details emerge, this story is nothing like 'No'.

'The Club' takes place in the somewhat remote coastal village of La Boca Navidad where a house of secret guests exists: they are either child molesters, baby snatchers, or were active supporters of Pinochet, and they were all Priests. They have all been excommunicated from the Catholic Church for their crimes and sent away to this house as not to harm the Church's image instead of being put in the public eye and then thrown in jail. The house is quarterbacked by a Nun who also suffered a similar fate as her house guests.

One day, a new guest comes to join The Club, only to be eventually tracked down by a former altar boy who shouted claims of constant abuse from outside the house for him to hear. Not long after, we learn that these claims are true, and the reaction sets off a further investigation into the requirement for the house and the livelihood of the guests who reside there.

'The Club' isn't an artistic work that should be shared for praise and glorified for any kind of distinction. Instead, it clearly details the horrific nature of how the Catholic Church deals with their worst offenders — by putting them in houses in rural locations, 100% funded by the Church. As the film progresses, we learn that the house mates have ways of passing the time — good and bad. Some are healthy, while others are vices. Eventually, when the house comes under inspection by the Church as to whether it should remain or not, extreme actions are taken to try and keep things intact.

While advertised as a dark comedy, this film is almost nowhere near that. It was intended to show the evil behind the Church, and that its image cannot be tarnished. In a continent that houses 40% of the world's Catholics, a film like this definitely sticks a thorn in the Church's side. It gets dark, it gets rather nasty, it gets brutal, but, while it's just a story with fictional accounts, they were created via true stories over the years.

Watch this film with the expectation that you will be shocked by what you see and hear, but hopefully you will be moved enough to know that there's evil where good supposedly resides.
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An Engaging Story Told with a Mix of Disturbance and Discomfort
SquigglyCrunch28 December 2016
The Club is about of group of former male priests who have been sent to live in a house for supposedly being incapable of properly ministering, when something horrible happens outside their house and a young priest-psychiatrist joins them in the hopes of finding out what's going on, and putting the former priests back on the right track.

The movie has so many twists and turns, it's probably better that you don't know much more about it. And that's something that I loved. It's unpredictable, and the movie just goes along without over dramatizing much, thus making it just a little more real.

Right from the get-go, this is a beautifully shot movie. Every scene is gorgeous, and the gloomy color pallet really helps set the tone. Even the coloring of the house sets the mood incredibly well, and allows an atmosphere of dark sadness to settle over the entire film.

The acting is all pretty good. The characters are convincing as characters, and they react in ways that I think a lot of people would in their situation. This is often due to the writing, which is also great. The dialogue is intriguing and pulls the story along with nice pacing.

The movie is pretty slow to start. When the dog races are first introduced, I thought it'd be about dog racers and lost interest. However, I'm happy I stuck with it because it gets better. Much better.

Despite how well-made and unpredictable the movie is, I found myself somewhat distant from it emotionally. Scenes that should have shocked or made me tear up had little effect. While it captured discomfort perfectly, it didn't quite capture other emotions.

Overall The Club is great. The acting, writing, shots, and story are all very engaging, all with a little too much discomfort. It lacks emotional investment and intrigue right off the bat, but it gets better. In the end I would definitely recommend this movie.
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The price is dear and the rewards are few for members of "The Club"
jtncsmistad19 May 2016
Four disgraced Catholic priests and a mysterious nun live together in a house situated in a remote seaside town. Each must atone for sins of the past. Collectively they comprise the "The Club".

And they don't take kindly to guests.

Chilean Director Pablo Larraín (who also shares writing and producing credit) does masterful work here creating an unremittingly dreary and dour atmosphere right from the opening frame. Even those scenes where the sun is shining feel decidedly dim in his film.

And the overarching tone befits the performances. This is fine ensemble work from the aforementioned five principle characters. The supporting cast is equally as impressive. Together these actors deliver a common thread of acute despondency and resignation to the dire circumstances which have come to consume and define their dismal lives.

It would be an exercise in easy to dismiss, or at the very least, minimize, "The Club" as a portrait of punishing depression and abject absolution. But I will submit that it is more than merely such uncomplicated characterization.

Larraín pulls nary a punch in his raw and unsettling condemnation of an omnipotent organization which has continued to figuratively turn it's head in the face of evil transgression rather than face the sordid depravity head on and work to root out and vanquish it.

The final moments of "The Club" brings the notion of "The New Church" and the suggestion that there is perhaps systemic change afoot in institutional Catholicism. These scenes also introduce a new boarder into the house in the person of a severely scarred victim of that which has been allowed to permeate in perpetuity and practically without punity.

But what we can not know, and what Larraín clearly leaves ambiguous by intent, is this: Will "The Club" welcome their new tenant in a spirit of repentance and forgiveness? Or will they treat this interloper as they have all other unwelcome invasions of their duplicitous commune? We can only hope for the former. Still, there is little expectation that our wish will be fulfilled. For by now we have come to learn in no uncertain terms that this is a congregation whose service is certainly not in the name of God. But rather in the shame of.

"The Club" is not at all pleasant to watch. It is alarmingly disturbing, spiritually jarring and leaves you adrift in a wake of lingering despair. This is not to say that it is a bad film. For it is not. It is to maintain, nonetheless, that it is a film about bad people violating all that is sacred about the human condition. Particularly by those who have vowed to operate in a manner mirroring that of divinity much more so than mortality.
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Beauty in ugliness, and ugliness in beauty
samandor-1578129 August 2017
This film will take you on a journey, if you let it - foremost has to do with the role that the Catholic Church played in Chilean history, Allende, Pinochet, and beyond. The final act may leave you scratching your head - it isn't well explained - but think about it, and it makes perfect sense. To say more would be a spoiler - and figuring it out isn't going to make you feel better. For taking on difficult matters so well, it deserves at least 9/10, and "No" is the next flick on my list.
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Crude and important!
Ricardo_Ruales30 April 2016
"El Club" by Pablo Larrain as "No" (2012) movies with a burden of historical and political transcendent defining only one side of the coin of Chile. Portrays a crude but important insight into a very small part of a country that is more than necessary to expose and raise it as a reality in the XXI century.

Aesthetically subtle and powerful at the same time, excellent music composition and interpretation of characters. Dynamic parallel editing perfectly achieved that gradually unfolds the story.

The film holds the viewer in front of the screen all the time, almost unblinking. Intriguing, mean and real.

A Masterpiece!
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A club you don't want to belong to
ReganRebecca7 January 2017
In a small fishing village 4 men and 1 woman cohabitate in a house. Their greatest joy in life is training and racing a small greyhound they collectively own, and they hold ambitions of buying and training more dogs so they can make more money. But their peaceful existence is broken when a another man comes to join their ranks. He, like the other men, is fallen member of the holy order, and though they are immediately suspicious of him, they put on a brave face. It isn't long however, before a victim of this new arrival literally shows up on their doorstep, shouting about the ways in which he was victimized and refusing to go away. What happens next shakes the little club to their core and disrupts their pleasant way of life.

This is a movie about some thoroughly unpleasant people. There is no one really to root for. The men and woman seem benign at first, but as they continue to talk they expose themselves for the greedy, selfish, self-interested people they are. While they have been taken out of commission and sequestered in a house, ostensibly to do penance, they have instead carved out a cushy life for themselves, each one privately convinced that they are in actual fact good, and are locked up with a bunch of degenerates.

While the film is beautifully shot, this is a film where the strength lies in the acting and the script. While not visually graphic the film has some very graphic dialogue about the crimes of some of the priests which are about what you would expect given the history of pedophilia in the Catholic church. It's a slow burn of a movie, but the more you watch the more you will feel disturbed as the members of the club expose themselves for who they really are.
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Bizarre and difficult to watch
angelsunchained14 February 2016
This is truly a bizarre, bleak, dark, and depressing film. This film is clearly a brutal attack on the church, the priesthood, and mankind in general. Not one character has any redeeming value. Everyone is presented as a hardcore pervert, criminal, liar, or sadist. The film rehashes the same graphic depiction of a homosexual rape of a former altar-boy by his priest over and over again. While it is clear that these events happened and were extremely tragic, the movie makers paint a very one-sided view. Even the locals are presented as brutes, drunks, and thugs. The total concept seems lost to me. Decent acting rates the film a 6.
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Disturbing and visceral film making from Chile
t-dooley-69-38691618 January 2017
This is a film from Pablo Larrain who brought us 'Tony Manero' and 'No', and is an excellent film maker. This is about a sort of retirement home for bad Priests on the coast of Chile. There four priests and one fallen nun get to live out their days away from where they can do harm to their erstwhile flocks. The crimes range from sexual abuse of children to child stealing from unmarried mothers. Then after a new incident a crisis counsellor turns up with Vatican credentials.

His job is to find out what has really taken place and see if these people are still worth the efforts of the Mother Church.

Now this is a cold film, it is also very bleak at times with many references to sexual abuses and so can be difficult in places. However, it is also powerful and does not set out to wholly condemn anyone. Everyone gets to have their say and all angles seem to be covered which makes the whole thing more real.

It is also a film that has a sense of doom and an urgency that makes you want to carry on watching it. I am a fan of Pablo Larrain and this film has only encouraged me in that endeavour – recommended.
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An Eye for an Eye
EdgarST4 January 2016
Pablo Larraín's "El club" (2015) is a well-made film, but in the end it seems like a crowd pleaser for culture-freak cinéphiles. Not only did I find the subject a little trite (effects of sexual abuse of boys by priests) and gruesome, for all the situations that I witnessed that were truer, and sometimes as excessive and pathetic as the case shown here, during the 12 years I spent in a school ruled by Augustinian Recollects; but I also found there is a lack of compassion in its treatment of behaviors and the story, and a bit sensationalism and rudeness without necessity, when in cases like this of all sexual orientations, the most adequate keyword seems to be compassion. But in the end everybody has the right to make personal interpretations of such matters, although I still insist that there are too many stereotyped traits in the exposition of the victim and the victimizers. I do not know if what we see are consequences of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorial regime, but there is something crudely realistic, in morbid and sordid ways, in the characters and situations of the four films by Larraín that I have seen, in which we do not perceive the (also clichéd, if you will) joy of living that we all need to go on. And it's one film after the other, in which -- in spite of the masterful execution-- when they end, one would rather be dead and gone!
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A club for the rare kind, but nowadays the numbers on the rise.
Reno-Rangan23 May 2016
Sadly, this is the most boring film I have seen in the last 12 months. I have enjoyed many films what others called the worst film of the year. That means I love to take chances, but I was surprised for this which is the least liked by me from the year 2015.

I usually respect films and filmmaking, so I thought to skip reviewing it than writing negatives about it, but then I thought I hadn't written much for the disliked films. Realised I should not go like this being neutral, because I collect my reviews and I wanted all kinds like good, bad, average for my basket.

I never considered myself an atheist or a theist, just a form of a life on the planet earth, so it's nothing to do with the religion for my viewpoint on this. This drama about the corrupted priests was not like I expected, I kind liked the theme, but not the overall film.

It was sent to represent Chile in the recently concluded Oscars, which was a similar theme to the top award winner 'Spotlight' but failed to qualify for the main event. If it was based on the real then my reaction would have been different.

They have tried it with a dark comedy that I was not impressed with the overall presentation. But there were a very few good scenes and it was not enough to win me. I know the majority of those who had watched the film are saying many good stuffs about it, looks like I might be the lone black spot around here that deserves dislike votes, so come guys!! Do it!

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Strange people
valadas14 October 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Yes but maybe real. The movie atmosphere both visual and psychological is gloomy. Four Catholic priests have been sent to a secluded house by the sea to expiate their former sins which include pedophilia and homosexuality. A former nun keeps and eye on them and their behaviour. A fifth one arrives with heavy sins upon him being followed by a man who was a victim of sexual abuse by him when a child. This man begins to reveal all that has passed between them uttering that in a loud voice outside the house where the priests are. This upsets the newcomer so deeply that he ends up by shooting his head with a pistol and dying. After that we see the priests talking and talking about their sins more often with a crisis counselor that has been sent there to inquire about the situation and even to close the house. The dialogues and conversations deal also with the way religion is faced by those priests and victims coming to use religious faith and principles to justify their sins. All this is given very expressively in an intense dramatic way.
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El Club
denizbayezit-4942030 April 2017
The film focuses on the life of a group of nuns who share the same house in a coastal town in Chile. At the Berlin Film Festival where the Jury Grand Prize was awarded, Darren Aronofsky admired the jury under his presidency and received a full grade from all the critics. The film, which won the Grand Jury Prize in Berlin, tells a group of priestly husbands away from the Church because of crimes they have committed confronted with sins, a dark atmosphere and a calmly tale.
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Confusing, but still good
logatherum11 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"El Club" had a few main themes, those being religion, irony, secrets and guilt. A lot of viewers have actually said that this film was made to expose the Catholic church and make it look bad. I agree with this statement, because so many events that happened in it were ironic, because there were things done and said by priests (whom this movie focused on) that would not typically qualify as 'holy' in my opinion. El Club is about four old, retired (and at least one gay) Catholic priests living in a house, ("the club") in a secluded, beachy and foggy area in Chile. The house is run by a woman surprisingly, whom is a retired nun, making up all the rules, one being that there was no contact with the outside world unless they were in their circle of religious figures. The group loves racing dogs, which seems to be a shared passion for all of them, (which I thought was a bit strange and random.) They have a strict schedule that forces free time to mold around their duties of praying. However, the reason this house is secluded is because the men are secretly there to ask God to forgive them for their sins, which are actually horrible crimes. These priests are guilty of child molestation, abuse, kidnapping, etc. Early in the movie, a new priest comes into the house, but his sins follow him. A now grown man stands outside the house yelling about the very graphic and horrendous sex abuse he endured as an altar boy from this new priest. However, the priest cannot seemingly stand his guilt, and quickly shoots himself in front of everybody. This is when I realized that this movie is extremely messed up, because later when the police were questioning the others in the house about why he was dead, the nun and other priests lied to cover up the abuse and crimes he had committed. When a new director comes in he sees the dysfunction, and wants to shut down the home. This film then follows the journey of their dog racing, trying to save the home, and the life of the angry man who was abused sexually by the dead priest. I liked this film, but I liked it less and less as it progressed. I found the point of the ending very confusing and it honestly lost me. This was possibly because there was very little dialogue between characters, and when there was, it was short. It ended with men killing the race dogs, blaming it on the man whom was abused and then him being ironically brought to repent his 'sins' in the house with the other four priests. I really loved the beginning, however, and my favorite scene was when the man was outside the home screaming the sex abuse he endured to his molester. I found this very interesting, because not only were the poor man's words very graphic and "unholy" but, as he was yelling them, the priest (his molester) was denying it to his housemates. I thought that when he grabbed the gun he was going to shoot the man yelling outside the house, but actually shot himself, which I was not expecting. I also liked when the nun was cleaning up his blood, she was singing very peaceful church songs. This film was very bizarre, weird and sexual, which I found ironic. I wish that the director had left out the theme of the dog racing because it just confused me and made the main theme of secrecy between priests less prominent and blurry.
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