Zaza Urushadze’s The Confession was the first overcrowded screening at the 33rd Warsaw Film Festival, most probably due to the director’s previous success with the Oscar-nominated Tangerines, which won the audience award when competing at the 29th edition of WFF. However, judging from the audience reaction, The Confession does not seem likely to have the same fate.
The script, written in two weeks (with, as the director remarked at the screening, no further improvisation done while filming), follows Giorgi, a filmmaker-turned-priest (Dimitri Tatishvili), and his assistant, Valiko (Joseph Khvedelidze), who have come to serve in a remote village in the Georgian countryside, after the death of its local priest. Having the “remote village” mentioned, it might be somewhat expected that the film portrays the dull and empty village society, where the intrigue comes as the only entertainment, but also as both the cause to confess and the consequence of the confession. And in fact, the film does that. Yet, there is more added to it: the film shows the revival of the church as the centre of the village’s social life, followed by the rise of the priest’s position and therefore his responsibilities, as, through confessions, he becomes “the one who knows” – and the one who knows is, of course, the one who must act. This rise of the church is achieved through the priest’s initiative to screen films and reach out to the villagers through cinema. This meta-cinematic element might lead to the conclusion of how Urushadze himself sees the purpose of film today – as a potentially powerful social and political tool. However, it would have been fully meta-cinematic if only The Confession provided such influence itself, which it does not.
Instead, the audience is shown to some extent a melodramatic and comic drama that touches a lot of important topics, such as the already mentioned position of the church, religion and cinema in society as well as in a particular person’s life, the role of the priest in society, the pressure of keeping the secret, etc. The Confession has an engaging and easy to follow narrative, which very slowly and unexpectedly reaches its most disturbing part towards the very end of the film, very much recalling Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (2012). It is only when the film depicts the accusation of sexual harassment and paedophilia that it finally comes to life, with a paced-up, vivid tempo and flashing plot twists. Yet, this, the most striking part of the film, seems to happen and conclude too fast. Possibly the director’s attempt to cover as many topics as possible resulted in a slightly superficial overview of a small town — which indeed, does resemble society in general.
On the other hand, convincing performances, primarily by Tatishvili, paired with multiple close-ups of all the protagonists — which makes it seem as if cinematographer Giorgi Shvelidze’s camera is aiming to capture the soul of the character — add to the value of the film. Still, it feels like the whole impression, not taking the unsuccessful meta-cinematic approach into account, would have been much stronger without the elements of comedy mostly based on repeated gags by Voliko. These elements do make The Confession easier to watch, and add up to the positive hope (in the faith-in-humanity-restored manner) with which the film ends, but at the same time they make the heavy burden of the film’s topics too light to carry.
FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Monika Gimbutaitė, LithuaniaMonika Gimbutaitė, born in 1993 in Lithuania, graduated from Vilnius Academy of Arts, Art Theory and History programme. For three and a half years she held the position of a programme coordinator at European Film Forum Scanorama. She is currently working as culture journalist for 15min.lt, the second biggest news website in Lithuania.
Alexander Gabelia, GeorgiaGeorgian film journalist and activist. He's a political refugee from Abkhazia. Alexander studied history of cinema and Cinematography at Ilia State University. He writes about cinema and culture in various prints and online outlets including LIBERALI.GE, AHA.GE and he’s a cinema reviewer for on-line magazine – www.magnettemag.com. He’s been also involved into Tbilisi International Film Festival and Cinedoc Tblisi.Arman Fatić, BosniaArman Fatić is Bosnian film critic/journalist currently based in Maribor, Slovenia where he is studying philosophy at Faculty of Arts Maribor. He is a writer for several websites/magazines across balkans some of which are ziher.hr, snl.ba and pulse.rs. His main fields of interest as a film critic are society problems in general and philosophical/religious symbolism in movies.
Jakub Wanat, PolandFilm-lover, cinema-goer, festival-fanatic. Both cinema and writing are my biggest passions, so I decided to combine them, which basically means I killed two birds with one stone. It all started with MAGIEL, Poland's biggest students' magazine, where for almost two years I was the head of the film column. I was chosen as a Polish representative in the Venice Days jury at the 2017 Venice Film Festival. I'm also the LUX prize ambassador and a proud member of the Scope100 project. I had a chance to write for Cineuropa, naEkranie and regularly for my blog. I'm studying both e-business and film studies, also having some time to work at a Polish start-up.
Mikhail Morkin, RussiaMoscow-based film journalist. He is a chief editor and critic for Kinomania.ru. His work has appeared in The Hollywood Reporter Russia, RussoRosso and Film Sense. He also worked as programmer assistant at 2morrow Film Festival. Born in Moscow in 1991, he holds a specialist’s degree in Linguistics from MSPU and is currently studying for master’s degree in Transmedia Production from HSE.
Mina Stanikic, Serbia24 year old film and theatre critic based in Novi Sad, Serbia. Although finishing medicine studies, she took up career as a cultural journalist, starting in Kultur!Kokoška, a culture-dedicated web magazine, slowly becoming focused on film and theatre criticism. Her articles have been published in various cultural magazines, mostly in Serbian language. Mina is alumna of 11th Talents Sarajevo, where she took part in Talent Press program, writing and publishing in English. In film criticism, she has particular interest in debut films, and the following transition from short to feature filmmaking. Mina works as a PR for the Film Front, International short film festival in Novi Sad, Serbia.
Romanita Alexeev, MoldovaRomanița’s relationship with the film world isn’t limited to her fascination for it. It also extends to her fascination with other people’s fascination for it. She has started her journey in this industry by studying film production and acting at the University of Salford, United Kingdom. Later on, she returned to her home-country, Moldova, where, at the present moment, is directing and an online/tv series about Moldovan film industry.