This film caused great controversy when it appeared, and conservative Catholic currents in Mexico even tried to stop its showing. As is often the case, it only contributed to the interest of the audience and became “El crimen del Padre Amaro” one of the most watched domestic films in Mexican cinemas earning nearly $ 30 million on a modest budget of barely two million. It is easy to imagine what could be the “crime” or sin of the young priest Amar embodied by the then most wanted young Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal. He previously shone in Inarritu’s “Dog Love” and Cuaron’s “And Your Mom Too,” and the role of a priest who arrives in a provincial town and falls in love with the young and beautiful religious teacher Amelia (Ana Claudia Talancon) was the third in a series of film roles. who were nominated for an Oscar.
But while at first it may seem that Padre Amara’s sin is the passionate romance he has embarked on, he will commit the real sin a little later when we realize that he has turned into the same person he initially despised. We meet Amara as he arrives in a small village parish, and we soon realize that he is a kind of stretcher of the bishop. The local pastor is in a relationship with the owner of the restaurant, and his main mission is to build hospitals and hospices that are mostly financed by cartel money, and criminals thus launder money. Another priest in the district, Father Natalio, is under investigation for supporting left-wing rebels in the hills and is threatened with excommunication by a corrupt bishop for openly opposing the church.
Amelia, on the other hand, is a 16-year-old religious teacher, the daughter of an innkeeper who is in a relationship with the pastor and is in a relationship with a local young man, journalist Ruben, whom this ardent believer will leave because he does not believe in god. His father, on the other hand, is a hated anti-clerical and intellectual in the village, and young Amaro will soon begin to understand where he came from and what the relations between the people are. A young priest who has just left the seminary will realize that what he has learned in theory is completely different from practice and the situation on the ground, and that the church is one of the most important wheels in the mechanism of corruption, crime, money laundering and politics. Although he tries to adhere to Catholic principles and be more honest than his older colleagues, very soon he too will succumb to the temptations and charms of young Amelie who has fallen in love with a new priest.
But what may seem like a typical melodrama about the romance of a young priest and a beautiful country girl for a while will soon turn into something much darker and scarier. We will understand that Amaro is actually just as selfish as his older colleagues and when the doubt comes Amelia and his career there will not be much thinking, and it is clear that it will all end tragically. While there is no doubt that the film made by Carlos Carrera based on the 1875 novel of the same name by the Portuguese Jose Marie de Ece Queiroz is a strong critique of the church, it is also an impressive character study. A film that wants to show that priests are primarily people with probably the same desires, needs and everything that goes on as the rest of society and how some instincts are sometimes hard to resist.
Just as some people are good and some people are bad, so is the situation with the clergy. Some are simply good, and some are bad, corrupt, corrupt, manipulators, selfish types who think only of themselves and who often make very good use of their position, power and influence as they have, especially in such rural areas. Although, as expected, the criticism of conservatives (who, as is often the case, probably did not watch the film) focused on the fact that the film is blasphemous and its only intention is to slander the Catholic Church, it is a complex story that is not so clear and simple. The film probably hurt the same critics because it described quite precisely how it works in reality, not in terms of sexual excesses of the clergy, but some much more serious topics such as connections with crime, corrupt politicians and everything that usually goes on.