For those of us who have faith, there is a mysticism behind the belief. At times it’s unexplainable, presenting itself as a deep embedded peace. When there is crisis of faith, are we essentially questioning the establishment or craving to feel that internal zest once more? In Balazs Juszt’s new film The Man Who Was Thursday, the audience journeys down a path of religious redemption with a priest as our guide.

Francois Arnaud plays Father Smith, the priest at the center of this psychological thriller. After questioning his priestly purpose, he is sent to Rome for spiritual rehabilitation by a family friend and spiritual guide Charles (Jordi Molla). It’s not long until it is established that Charles had an ulterior motive, he needs the Father’s help. Father Smith is tasked with the mission to infiltrate an anarchist group set on destroying the religious establishment. Through chaotic circumstances, the mission’s ultimate goal becomes obscured as Father Smith becomes entranced in his role as the culprit Thursday.

The film’s dark palates and tones correspond beautifully with the old world history of Catholicism. For a religion based in mysticism, it’s only fitting that a film that explores its underbelly presents itself within a tale of uncertainty. The film, at times, is confusing and transverses multiple timelines. However, instead of pushing the audience away, the use of these story elements pull them in deeper. 

It becomes less about the rehabilitation of Father Smith, but more about the journey we take alongside Thursday. His inclusion into the group begins to take its toll as he starts to question what is the ultimate goal of the protests. The rehabilitation Father Smith desperately needs is jumbled with the clandestine work of Thursday, leaving him fighting his way through the murky waters of his mission.

Image by Guy Livneh

Image by Guy Livneh

The film was inspired by GK Chesteron’s novel of the same name, utilizing the film format to expand the novel’s world of this story. Juszt does a wonderful job setting up enough of a backstory of Father Smith without taking away from the meat of the other stories. You understand the Father’s doubt, but never question his faith. A fear is explored that everyone can relate to in one way or another. A lot happens within the film, and the audience is on the edge of their seat as they identify with Thursday’s turmoil. 

Arnaud and Molla are actors you have seen before, but their past incarnations have no power in this film. The commitment and sentiment expressed by both parties create a trust between the screen and the audience. Even with the addition of the jagged complex character of Saturday (Ana Ularu), the fabrication of these robust characters fulfill the necessary components for the treacherous journey. You need powerful actors to handle a powerful story, and these three deliver.

The influence this film has on the viewer is not just through visual beauty or connective individuals, but instead through the unknown desire within to find purpose behind existence. You search for a meaning of the film, to find the path from beginning to end, all the while finding the path that connects your soul to a higher power. That is, if one is brave enough to take the trip.

The Man Who Was Thursday plays at the Austin Film Festival Wednesday, October 19th, at the Alamo Village at 8 pm.

Written by Lisa Mejia
Images by Guy Livneh