Watched the “The Crime of Padre Amaro” (El Crimen del Padre Amaro in Spanish) over the weekend. This is supposed to be one of Mexico’s biggest box office hits in recent times and was also nominated in the Best Foreign Film category for the Oscars in 2003. But I must admit it turned out be a wee bit disappointing as it is nothing but a very well done melodramatic soap with an exceptionally good looking cast. The story is one of human greed and the characters if placed in any other scenario would behave just as same.
The fact that the movie is about the forbidden love between a young and terribly good looking priest -Father Amaro (Gael Garcia Bernal) and the young, virginal Amelia just makes it controversial and probably contributed greatly to the box office revenue. In retrospect, Father Amaro’s character is just as ambitious as Topher Grace’s character Carter Duryea in “In Good Company” (which was one of this year’s most under rated movies). Only in case of Father Amaro this becomes a sin because of his association with the Catholic Church. Furthermore the sin of Father Amaro is not that he has sex with Amelia or pays for an abortion, but the fact that he disassociates himself from Amelia and her plight as he wants to rise within the Church hierarchy.
Gael Garcia Bernal is one of those rare actors who have a blank face that can portray a range of human emotions and is a sheer delight to watch (Loved him in “The Motorcycle Diaries” too). He smiles gleefully (in his first rendezvous with Amelia) with the same intensity as he scowls (at the suggestion of exchanging the cassock for chance at matrimony) I intend to watch his other famous movie “Y Tu Mama Tambien” too.
One of the important questions that the movie raises very early on is that of celibacy in the Church. Being human is difficult enough and by seeking its novices to take up a vow of celibacy doesn’t a religious institution expect them to be superhuman. Why does love for god and love for another human being have to be mutually exclusive is something I am yet to fathom.