SWORD OF GOD (2018)
aka KREW BOGA, THE MUTE
Directed by Bartosz Konopka
Written by Bartosz Konopka, Przemyslaw Nowakowski, Anna Wydra
Starring Krzysztof Pieczynski, Karol Bernacki, Wiktoria Gorodecka, Jacek Koman, Jan Bijvoet, Jeroen Perceval, Olivier De Sagazan, Dominik Bak, Konrad Beta, Marcel Borowiec, Izabela Chlewinska, Halina Chmielarz, Marta Cichorska, Kamil Dobrowolski, Karol Dus, Magdalena Fejdasz, Antoni Franczak, Arkadiusz Glogowski, Aneta Jankowska, Witold Jurewicz, Karol Kadlubiec, Anna Klos-Kleszczewska, Pawel Kinior, Mateusz Korsak, Matylda Krajewska, Ernest Lisowski, Krystian Lyson, Dominika Majewska, Patryk Michalak, Maksymilian Michasiów, Iwona Olszowska, Magdalena Osinska, Karolina Porcari, Kamil Przystal, Katarzyna Sitarz, Oskar Stoczynski, Hanna Sulawa, Filip Szatarski, Wojciech Trela, Teo Urbanski, Maja Wachowska, Weronika Warchol, Maurycy Wolf
Find out more about this film here!
More of a stark historical drama with horrific imagery than straight up horror, SWORD OF GOD, which toured the festival circuit last year as THE MUTE, is a powerful and mesmerizing look at how a seemingly holy mission can quickly turn foul given the right circumstances.
Donald Pleasance lookalike Krzysztof Pieczynski plays Willibrord, a holy man who goal is to bring the word of God to the natives before his king (BORGMAN’s Jan Bijvoet) arrives. The sole survivor of his ship as its lifeboat drifts ashore, Willibrord finds rescue in the form of Noname (Karol Barnacki), a hermit living on the beach. Nursing the ailing priest back to health, Noname becomes apprentice to Willibrord as he sets out to tame the savages with the word of God. But when Noname sees Willibrord’s methods of Christian conversion, he begins to doubt his is the will of God. As penance, Noname sews his own mouth shut in protest to Willibrord’s methods. This fractures the native tribe into those following Noname’s more passive ways or the aggressive tactics of Willibrord which culminates in all out war between the divided tribe.
Reminiscent in tone to Terrence Malick’s meditative narratives that soak in the nature around the ugliness of humanity, filmmaker Bartosz Konopka immerses the viewer in a world completely alien and new. This film is set during the time of the Crusades, but it might as well be Mars with the way everything looks. Konopka’s camera lingers on beautiful juxtapositions of nature in full bloom and in decay in a way that can’t help but transfix the audience. I know there are those who don’t have the stomach for films that linger on the small things in order to tell a larger scale story. These meditative films are an acquired taste and modern audiences might not have the palate for it. Still, one can’t argue that this is one gorgeous looking film. Everything from the thick woodlands to the rituals of the tribe which include smearing thick clay over their faces is filmed with a curious eye for bringing the bizarre out of normalcy.
The story is a powerful one and one told before. You can pair the two holy men’s methods to everyone from Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X to Professor X and Magneto. The palm or the fist are the two extremes presented here and the film makes a strong argument for both by pairing up two dynamic actors in Pieczynski and Barnacki. This is a Polish film, spoken mostly with subtitles, but I was so riveted to the presence of these two actors that I barely noticed it. There are equally powerful performances by the tribe, much of which is done without a word spoken, just a stoic look or a fearful grimace. This is a film that communicates it’s themes beyond the words it speaks, much like Noname the Mute himself.
I am hesitant to call this horror, but there are absolutely terrifying, gory, grimy, and brutal elements to SWORD OF GOD. Konopka takes on a monster scarier than zombies or slashers—the horrifying power of faith and how it can be the deadliest weapon in the wrong hands. The horror lays in the perversion of faith, the oppression of the innocent, and the lengths people will go in the name of God. This is a sophisticated tale with horrific elements, nightmarish imagery, and a story that hits like a sledgehammer. SWORD OF GOD isn’t for the popcorn crowd. But if you enjoy dense subject matter and alluring scenery, this is going to be the type of human tragedy that will satisfy. Heartbreaking and intense, SWORD OF GOD is more than a horror film; it’s a powerful piece of cinema.