IMDb > To Kill a Priest (1988)
To Kill a Priest
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To Kill a Priest (1988) More at IMDbPro »

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User Rating:
6.2/10   1,130 votes »
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Up 72% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
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Release Date:
13 October 1989 (USA) See more »
A young priest speaks out against the Communist regime in Poland and is killed for it. | Add synopsis »
(3 articles)
Illumination: The Origins of In Darkness
 (From Tribeca Film. 26 January 2012, 5:00 AM, PST)

Pete Postlethwaite: a career in clips
 (From The Guardian - TV News. 3 January 2011, 10:26 AM, PST)

Pete Postlethwaite: a career in clips
 (From The Guardian - Film News. 3 January 2011, 10:26 AM, PST)

User Reviews:
A strange mix See more (6 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Christopher Lambert ... Father Alek

Ed Harris ... Stefan

Joss Ackland ... Colonel

Tim Roth ... Feliks

Timothy Spall ... Igor

Pete Postlethwaite ... Josef (as Peter Postlethwaite)

Cherie Lunghi ... Halina

Joanne Whalley ... Anna

David Suchet ... Bishop

Charlie Condou ... Mirek (as Charles Condou)
Tom Radcliffe ... Young Soldier

Wojciech Pszoniak ... Bridge Player (as Wojtek Pszoniak)
Johnny Allen
George Birt (as Georges Birt)
André Chaumeau (as Andre Chaumeau)

Paul Crauchet ... Alek's Father
Janine Darcey
Huguette Faget

Gregor Fisher

Jerome Flynn
Matyelok Gibbs ... Colonel's Wife

Brian Glover ... Judge

Vincent Grass

Anne-Marie Pisani ... Colonel's Secretary

Eugeniusz Priwieziencew ... SB officer
Nicolas Serreau

Boguslawa Schubert ... Secretary (as Boguslava Schubert)
Jean-Pierre Stewart
Hanna Sylberg
Nicky Taylor (as Nick Taylor)

Philip Whitchurch ... SB Officer
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Raoul Delfosse ... (uncredited)

Daniel Olbrychski ... (uncredited)

Directed by
Agnieszka Holland 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Michael Cooper  English adaptation
Agnieszka Holland  screenplay
Agnieszka Holland  story
Jean-Yves Pitoun  writer

Produced by
Jean-Pierre Alessandri .... producer
Timothy Burrill .... co-producer
Michael Cooper .... associate producer
Marie-Christine Lefebvre .... associate producer
Original Music by
Georges Delerue 
Cinematography by
Adam Holender 
Film Editing by
Hervé de Luze  (as Herve De Luze)
Production Design by
Emile Ghigo 
Art Direction by
Jean-Claude Cabouret 
Set Decoration by
Danka Semenovicz  (as Danka Semenowicz)
Costume Design by
Anna B. Sheppard  (as Anna Sheppard)
Makeup Department
Isabelle Gamsohn .... hair stylist
Didier Lavergne .... makeup artist
Production Management
Daniel Baschieri .... assistant unit manager
Jean-Marc Deschamps .... unit manager
Arnaud Esterez .... assistant unit manager
Gérald Molto .... production manager (as Gerald Molto)
Olivier Rohde .... assistant unit manager
Clément Sentilhes .... assistant unit manager
Olivier Thaon .... unit manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Mishka Cheyko .... first assistant director (as Michel Cheyko)
Luc Etienne .... third assistant director
Michel Ferry .... second assistant director
Art Department
Jean-Pierre Clech .... assistant art director
Frédéric Pidancet .... assistant art director (as Frederic Pidancet)
Sound Department
Jean-Marie Blondel .... boom operator
Daniel Brisseau .... production sound mixer
William Flageollet .... sound
François Groult .... sound
Gérard Hardy .... sound editor
Michel Klochendler .... sound editor
Gérard Lamps .... re-recording mixer
Special Effects by
Jean-Charles Drevelle .... special effects: Atmosphere (as Jean-Charles Drevel)
Daniel Breton .... stunt coordinator
Lee Sheward .... stunt double: Christoper Lambert
Camera and Electrical Department
Jean Harnois .... camera operator
Marc Koninckx .... Steadicam operator
Casting Department
Marie-Sylvie Caillierez .... casting associate
Margot Capelier .... casting: France
Priscilla John .... casting: England
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Mic Cheminal .... wardrobe supervisor
Laurent Coutellier .... costumer
Editorial Department
Olivier Fontenay .... color timer
Music Department
Joan Baez .... composer: song "The Crimes of Cain"
Georges Delerue .... conductor
Zbigniew Preisner .... composer: song "Church Song"
Other crew
Elsa Chabrol .... continuity
Jean-Claude Le Bras .... gaffer

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
117 min
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Argentina:13 | Finland:K-16 | Iceland:14 (original rating) | Iceland:16 (video rating) | Portugal:M/12 | Spain:13 | UK:15 (theatrical rating) (heavily cut) | UK:18 (video rating) (cut) | USA:R | West Germany:16

Did You Know?

The film is based on the true story of Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a Catholic priest and Solidarity supporter who was murdered by agents of the Polish secret police.See more »
Father Alek:A government by brute force is not a government.See more »
The Many Crimes of CainSee more »


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12 out of 17 people found the following review useful.
A strange mix, 20 March 2000
Author: Tin Man-5 from Auke Bay, Alaska

"To Kill A Priest" has all the things that can make a movie great. Great direction, a powerful cast, good chemistry between well-defined actors, and a strong premise. Where is falls short is in the core. It is almost told from a newsreel's perspective, briefing the audience on an event rather than actually presenting any specific theme. Therefore, many multiple themes can possibly be drawn out of this, and while this fact keeps the film from being a masterpiece, it certainly doesn't make it a bad film.

Inspired from actual events, the story centers around Father Alec (Christopher Lambert), a young, charismatic priest who isn't afraid to go against the system in his home in 1981's Poland. In a land ruled by Communism, he is a strong voice for Soliditary, and the people love him. Likewise, Stefan (Ed Harris) is a secret police officer who loves his country and he thinks that communism is the only way, and people like Alec are only getting in the way. He is emotionally disfunctional, and his family life is a wreck. Haunted by a painful past, he thinks that if it is possible to eliminate Alec, the people of Soliditary would run scared.

Hence, the film presents two sides of the story, about two men who love their country and their people, and how they each interpret what they believe to be Poland's needs. Along the way, the film also speaks of both corrupt polititians and cowardly priests (led by Joss Ackland and David Suchet, respectively), and how Alec and Stefan both try to use both to get their work accomplished. Both provide very powerful defenses for their visions and actions, and both are very committed to a destiny which will collide them together.

Mostly, this film is a collection of excellently-directed bits of dialogue which are magnificent to behold. The scenes in which Lambert tries to defend his work to Suchet sizzle with intensity, likewise do the scenes between Harris and Ackland. The subplots involving Joanne Whalley and Pete Postlethwaite are also compelling and thought-provoking, and the performances of all the actors are nothing short of majestic.

What then, is missing? The fact that the film takes no sides, and presents both sides of the argument equally. Therefore, though the bits of dialogue at the beginning and end seem to lean towards Alec's cause, the center of the film never really states which side it is taking....that of communism, or that of soliditary. Because of this, any message that the film is trying to make is lost in the balance to time spent on each argument. This might have been the point of director Agnieszka Holland, but if it is, then it was a bad idea. It would have been more effective if he had chosen to follow one of the arguments and run more rampant with it. If this had been the case, than history might have been changed with the ballot for best picture at the Academy Awards of 1989 reading "To Kill A Priest."

However, because of this flaw, the film is very compelling, in spite of itself. Most thoughts of communism nowadays only bring to mind thoughts of stereotypical, mustache-twirling villians. However, due to the time spent on both sides of the spectrum, this is proven not to be true. Stefan commits the acts he does because he honestly believes he is doing what is best for his family, and he isn't ashamed of any of it. This side presented to communism is quite intriguing, and it shows that one doesn't have to be evil to be on the side of evil. Hence, due to the lack of a single theme, multiple themes are presented, and while they might not be as powerful as a film with simply one to expand on, the emphasis on them all is thoughtful, if uneven.

*** out of ****

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