Adapted from the classic 1908 existential novel by G. K. Chesterton, Balazs Juszt’s directorial debut is a heady thriller. Splitting time between a fascist-period attempt on Mussolini’s life and a contemporary plot to assassinate the pope, The Man Who Was Thursday takes place in the darker backstreets of faith.
This is a ballsy translation of the source material, a sexy catholic-centric tale of espionage and existential crisis. Juszt’s attentions are inconsistently split across time to deliver a scathing attack on, more specifically than Chesterton’s novel, the Vatican and God as an idea. Juszt clearly wants to talk, but he also wants to have fun and that’s tricky with so much weighty mystery going around. The film is executed with a good sense of rhythm and a solid score, keeping its action beats reserved for all the right moments, and its performances staunch. At some point, though, you’ll probably wish there was more time spent with Francois Arnaud back in church, or at least a few bonus BDSM nuns.
Not quite sure whether it wants to be an action adventure, or a straight-faced conversation about the nature of faith and power, The Man Who Was Thursday actually manages both pretty well. Big questions perhaps need more than a simple tale of double agents and religious hatred, but you’ll easily get caught up in this odd twisting, yet ambitious, thriller.
Dir. Balazs Juszt
Stars: Ana Ularu, Jordi Molla, Francois Arnaud