The Man Who Was Thursday
A priest falls from grace and finds himself thrown into the Roman Underworld to find the identity of the mysterious leader of a group of renegades in Balazs Juszt’ The Man Who Was Thursday.
As the film opens, Father Smith (François Arnaud) is clearly deeply conflicted about his role as a priest. He hears the confessions of others and struggles with having the urge to do the same things that they are confessing to him. The whole thing escalates when a mysterious woman forces herself on him and claims she is pregnant.
After this point, he is taken back to Rome and has his priesthood revoked because of his actions. To redeem himself he is drafted into figuring out who the leader of the mysterious organisation is where the members name themselves after the days of the week.
I found this shift really jarring as it makes the early part of the film feel very extreme when the purpose only seems to be to get Father Smith back to Rome. Considering the situation is never actually resolved or mentioned after the fact it seems that any explanation to get him to lose his priesthood and have to return to Rome would have done the job.
Father Smith could have been an interesting character but he isn’t all that well defined. He seems to sleepwalk through the film with his allegiances shifting on a whim. It feels like there are chunks of story missing that give reasons for him agreeing or disagreeing with different points of view. Considering we are seeing the situation from his perspective it would be useful if his views were actually understood rather than having him blindly going along with whoever he happens to be around at that point. This lack of development makes it very difficult to invest in him as a character as well as the situations he is placed in.
The rest of the film is really confusing yet compelling at points. I like the idea of the clandestine organisation that mocks the church through its actions. The character of Saturday (Una Ularu) is developed fairly well with some brutal reasons for her to think the way she does. Her methods may not be very well developed but her personal reasons for being involved definitely are.
Commitment is definitely a major theme here. Father Smith’s commitment to the church is tested in the beginning with his devotion to the mission he is given being tested throughout the rest of the film. It’s interesting to see how these different things are presented but more attention should have been given to better define the two sides of the conflict. As the story progresses it all grows more unclear. I understand that the film was trying to establish an effective mystery and in many ways it accomplishes that but in other ways it’s very difficult to understand what is going on.
With this being mainly a thriller there are plenty of twists throughout. Some work really well and deliver the intended shock and others completely miss the mark. In particular the twist that closes the film feels somewhat laughable despite the attempts to drop hints at earlier points.
An uneven film that has some interesting twists and storytelling elements but largely fails in the execution. The problem is that the main character is thinly defined with a perspective that is fairly difficult to follow so it’s difficult to invest in anything that is going on. Any interesting elements are countered by something that is confusing but there are parts of the film that really shine.
- some effective twists
- an interesting divide between the two sides of a conflict
- an intriguing mystery in places
- some laughable twists
- a poorly defined main character