Sunday, April 23, 2017


This morning I watched The Confession on my DVR, having noticed that it's available on DVD courtesy of the Criterion Collection. You can get it at Amazon and the TCM Shop, although being the Criterion Collection, it is a bit pricey. If it shows up again as a TCM Import, watch it.

The movie starts off in Prague in early 1951. Gérard (Yves Montand), nom de guerre of Artur London, is an undersecretary at one of the Communist government ministries, and a dedicated Communist. The movie is based on the real-life story of Artur London, and in one scene in the movie the character of his wife Lise (played by Simone Signoret) is referred to as Londonová which would be the proper Czech surname for her, but IMDb and my box guide refer to Gérard's actual name as Anton Ludvik. For what it's worth, the character is almost exclusively referred to as Gérard. Anyhow, when Gérard leaves the office for home, he notices he's being followed by another car. And it's been going on for a couple of days.

So that night at his house he meets several other Communists with whom he shares something in common: they all fought in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War against the Falangists/Fascists. Although they fought against Fascism, and some of them including Gérard wound up spending time in Nazi concentration camps as a result, they're all in danger. As we learned from the movie Dark Blue World, those who fought Fascism on the western front came back to Czechoslovakia not to be hailed heroes, but considered enemies of the state by the Stalinist Communists. Such was eventually to be the case for the International Brigade members, too.

Gérard finally gets picked up off the street one day and taken to a special prison, where he's subjected to torture in the hopes of extracting a confession from him. He's not the only one, of course, and any time one of them makes a confession, regardless of whether the confession is at all truthful, that material can be used against the others. Artur seems to hold out the longest, because the film implies he was arrested in January 1951, while the show trials were held in November 1952.

We know he survives, however, because halfway through the movie the action briefly switches to France in 1965 and Gérard is seen telling his story and being told he should write a book about it. That did eventually happen and the movie is the result of that book.

The Confession was directed by Costa-Gavras, and as I was watching it I couldn't help but think of the similarites to his previous movie Z. They both deal with political intrigue and totalitarianism, and both of them have a slightly non-linear storytelling process that at times makes you question reality. Having said that, I'd introduce people who aren't well-versed in foreign films to Z first. The reason is that The Confession is unrelentingly brutal, in a way that really made me uncomfortable at times. Oh, the movie is well made, and Montand and Signoret are both quite good; it's just that the totalitarianism is harsher and more disturbing here than in Z, making it a bit harder to watch. At least for me. As I said at the beginning, however, definitely make it a point to watch it if it ever shows up on TCM again or if you can do the streaming thing; Amazon seem to imply it's available from them courtesy of streaming as well as DVD and Blu-Ray. It's too bad that Criterion price their DVD's so expensive.

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