Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.

— Eknath Easwaran

In a scene in the middle of the film, our unclean hero, a juvenile convict, poses as a priest. While standing on the altar in front of his parish, in a shaft of stained-glass light he holds aloft a huge sacred wafer, symbolically; the body and blood of Christ.

It is a startling moment in Jan Komasa’s award-winning film, in which our soiled millennial protagonist grips in both hands, all the fragments of the story that have passed, and in a moment of unexpected grace, dissolves all of them: the mendacity, deception, rain of childhood trauma and thunder of sexual violence.

It is a moment of transformation, where everything in his life is suddenly reshaped, and a powerful shot in which he and the collection of shabby, impoverished villagers seem, for a long moment, not to breathe.

It is, of course, a scene written in the script by Mateusz Pacewicz and directed by Komasa, but it only works because of the light in actor “Father” Daniel’s (Bartosz Bielenia in an exciting debut) eyes.

“Corpus Christi’ begins when Daniel confesses to the prison priest (Lukasz Simlat) his desire to become a priest himself, and is then transferred from a Polish detention center. He is then confronted with a desperate choice.

Despite his year as the priest’s fervent acolyte, he is told that there is no chance for a convict to be accepted in any seminary.

Disheartened and embittered, Daniel is sent to work in a grubby sawmill in Slovakia.

While standing atop a hill overlooking the dead end gulag, he changes his mind. Taking from his bag of clothing one of the prison’s priest’s frocks, he wanders off into a nearby village.

In an attempt to cover his tracks as a paroled convict, he passes himself off as a recent graduate of a seminary, ready to live his dream.

All the fragments of drama are poured into this chipped bowl of a village that the now rusted Iron Curtain had soiled for years and left behind.

The village has an old alcoholic priest who falls ill and is sent to the hospital, leaving the villagers no other choice than to accept the blue-eyed, shaven-head stranger before them.

Among those who reluctantly accept him, there is one who hesitates, this will be Eliza, (Eliza Rycembel) an embittered young woman full of pain and with her own secrets.

Only a week before Daniel’s arrival, there had been a tragedy here, a terrible accident that took seven young lives, leaving behind clouds of bitterness and gutters of anger.

Eliza, looking for peace and answers to her pain, forms a bond with Daniel.

When the old priest is unable to return, Daniel is forced to continue the deception, growing bolder and friendlier, he serves the mass. Studying all the rituals from a guide on his smartphone, he hears confessions and blesses the sick and the dying.

Feeling safe and confident at last in this rural Shangri-La, Daniel becomes what he always wanted to be, a priest with the added adornments of youthful joy and exuberance that enchant the dour parishioners.

But every garden of Eden has its serpents, and two appear here to shatter the spell, one, a suspicious mill owner and mayor, and a Judas from the detention center who appears in the confessional.

“Corpus Christi,” which was one of the five nominated for Best International Feature Film Oscars, took this reviewer and the Academy by surprise. Simply written and shot in stark and chilly muted colors by cinematographer Piotr Sobocinsky Jr., it looks to make international stars of everyone in the gang.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and screen actor.

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