Based on the book of the same name by Damon Galgut, ‘The Quarry’ is the story about guilt and redemption. It begins with a crime that leads a man to commit another crime. He thinks that with a fresh start, he can turn his life around. But his past refuses to let go of him, and his actions destroy more lives in an otherwise sleepy town. In the end, he has to face the consequences of his actions. If you haven’t yet seen the film, come back to this article later. SPOILERS AHEAD.
While driving down an empty road, David Martin finds a man in a deplorable state. He helps the Man and suspecting that he is on the run from the law, offers him a fresh start in a town to which he is headed. What he doesn’t realise is that the Man is still reeling from his actions and is in no mood to listen to him. By accident, the Man kills David. He half-buries the body in the quarry where they had stopped, and then, heads towards the town of Bevel as David Martin.
He is to play the role of the priest of a church with dwindling attendance. Despite being inept at the job, his honesty strikes a chord with the people, and they start coming back to church. While everyone else has accepted him, two brothers and a Chief of police become suspicious of his past.
Why did Valentin confess?
It was no secret, at least to the audience, that the Man had killed the real David Martin. He left the body in the quarry, which was then discovered by Poco. The boy had been suspicious of the new priest since the beginning. When they were going through his box, which they had stolen from his car, he and Valentin found the bloody clothes and a violet flower stuck in the fold of the pants.
He recognized it from the quarry and wondered what the priest had been up to there. When Valentin was arrested for stealing, Poco decided to go to the quarry and find out more. To his horror, he discovered that he was right, and a dead body was found. This confirmed, for Poco and Valentin, that the man masquerading as Pastor Martin was a murderer. The cops, however, did not believe them.
They had found the bloody clothes, and some weed with it, inside Valentin’s trailer, separate from the box of stuff that they had tried to burn. This led them to believe that the clothes were Valentin’s, which meant that he was the murderer. Valentin told them that it belonged to the priest, but they did not believe him. Not outright, at least. And Valentin knew why.
Because he was a person of color, it was easier for cops to believe that he was the one capable of killing someone. He did not have a good reputation, to begin with. He and Poco were known for stealing stuff, but they had never physically harmed anyone. The presence of conclusive evidence in their possession was enough for the cops to believe that Valentin was responsible for the death of the man they’d found in the quarry.
Why would a priest, an upstanding citizen who had turned around the fate of the church that had been dying before he came around, kill someone? Perhaps, had the real David Martin, who was also a person of color, shown up instead of the Man, the cops would have found it easier to believe Valentin’s theory.
Through this part of the story, the film brings out the prejudice faced by non-whites. The lawyer, who is supposed to defend Valentin, is not even interested in hearing what he has to say. He could have helped him; it wouldn’t have taken long to connect the Man to the evidence and figuring out what had happened. But he, too, was blinded by his bigotry and advised Valentin to plead guilty and take the deal to make things easier for himself, but more importantly for Poco. Though angered by it, Valentin knew the lawyer was right, and so, he confessed.
The Ending: Is the Man dead?
Leaving Poco with Celia, Valentin plans an escape from the court. He is wounded in the process, but in the morning, he finds himself on a boat with the man who calls himself David Martin. Overwhelmed by his guilt, the man confesses to killing the real Martin and taking his place. We also discover why he had been running from the cops in the first place. He had killed his wife and her lover. The burning house that he saw in his dreams was that memory. When Valentin asks who he is, the Man says that it doesn’t matter. Valentin stabs the Man to death and succumbs to his injuries.
Back in Bevel, the Chief finds out that Celia is gone. In the bathroom, he finds the button from the real David Martin’s shirt, which confirms his doubts about the Man. He realizes that Valentin had been telling the truth all along. In the last scene, we find Celia and Poco on their way out of the town, following the railway tracks. Previously, the Man had asked Celia if she ever felt like leaving the town. At that time, she didn’t find it so easy to do, but after everything, she finds the courage and leaves behind that life, with Poco by her side.
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