Saturday 3 February 2024

The Confession [1970]

 The Confession, Costa-Gavras’ follow-up to his pulsating masterpiece Z, couldn’t be more dramatically contrasting in form, tone and milieu. Yet it was bound to the preceding smash hit as well the electrifying next film State of Siege, in that this formidable trilogy catalogued judicial overreach and abuse of power by the state against those it construed as political dissidents, and was bolstered by Yves Montand’s charismatic presence. Harsh, harrowing and disorienting, and yet also gripping and darkly irony, this edgy and compelling film made no bones about the filmmaker’s disdain for Stalinist totalitarianism and excesses despite his steadfast leftism. This crucial nuance was also underlined by association of multiple other people on the left in different capacities – actors Montand and Simone Signoret, writer Jorge Semprún, Chris Marker who served as still photographer during production, etc. – even though it inevitably evoked sharp political reactions. Based on Czechoslovak communist veteran Artur London’s memoirs L’Aveu, it chronicled his sudden arrest, long stretches of dehumanizing torture and deliberate manipulation into self-incriminating confession – on charges of Trotskyism, Titoism and Zionism – and thereafter the Slánský show trials he was made to stand along with many others; these, despite his past involvements in Spanish Civil War and French anti-Nazi Resistance, his internment in Mauthausen concentration camp, and his long-standing party position. Montand’s remarkable performance – he lost twenty-five pounds for the role – was matched by Gabriele Ferzetti as a hideously cunning interrogator, while the film’s bleak mood and claustrophobic spaces were impressively captured through washed out images by Raoul Coutard. Gavras’ political voice was matched by his narrative brilliance, in how he often jumped back and forth in time, invoked collective memory and demonstrated the underlying farce.

Director: Costa-Gavras

Genre: Drama/Political Drama/Historical Drama/Biopic

Language: French

Country: France

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