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‘The Confessions’ (review)

Produced by Angelo Barbagallo
Written by Roberto Andò, Angelo Pasquini
Directed by Roberto Andò
Starring Toni Servillo, Connie Nielsen,
Pierfrancesco Favino, Marie-Josée Croze,
Moritz Bleibtreu, Lambert Wilson, Daniel Auteuil


It is very rare to find a film that has no wasted movement. The Confessions comes as close to that as maybe any movie I’ve ever seen.

The story is a simple one. At a meeting of the G8, a mysterious Italian monk is invited at the behest of the International Monetary Fund. The monk and the IMF manager speak late into the night and the next morning the IMF manager is found dead.

Was there foul play? Was it suicide? The story, which plays out over a weekend at a beach side resort, keeps you interested from beginning to end.

From the technical side this movie is nothing short of brilliant. The writing is beautiful with truly profound moments. It switches between Italian, French and English seamlessly and the viewer is never in the dark.

I wish I had a copy of Roberto Ando and Angelo Pasquini’s script so I could pull all the brilliant snippets out. There were just too many. The dialogue is melodic as if the movie is a poem but it never goes too far. It is biting at moments without being cruel. It is deep, without being arrogant.

The cinematography of Maurizio Calvesi is artistic and meaningful. There is no wasted camera movement and he plays with light and shadow throughout the film as the story unfolds into a tale of the morality of money, humanity and the nature of evil itself. Calvesi’s mastery is demonstrated throughout The Confessions and aside from a mildly irritating misdirection near the very end (which we can easily hang on the director) there are no poor choices.

The performances are very strong. Toni Servillo is brilliant as the mysterious monk who spent many years in silence, listening to the world around him. The power of silence in the film reminded me of the beautiful Chaim Potok books, The Chosen and The Promise, which center around the pain of silence driving compassion into those forced to suffer it. The Confessions is very much about compassion and pain. All of the supporting players are well cast and effective, but Servillo shines through in every scene.

While the story is a formula we’ve seen before, who dunnit and why?

The execution is a biting commentary on global economic policy and power. The power of large banks to do whatever they want is a constant subtle thread throughout the story. Politicians have no power because the bankers do what they wish without informing the governments they are beholden to. The rich get richer and the poor, poorer because committees like the G8 are complicit in their acceptance of cruel policies or guilty in their creation of the same.

This film attacks the premise that good can only exist if evil exists. It is a lead pipe across the knees of the conventional wisdom of good and evil. There is even a thinly veiled shot at Dominique Strauss-Kahn and some of the ingrained misogyny that exists. It was good to see from a script written by men.

I have a couple of very minor issues with the film, but they are barely worth mentioning, so I won’t. The Confessions is an excellent film. It is unsurprising that it appeared in so many festivals. If you are a film fan, it is a must see. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Five out five stars.



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