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
Călin Boto is a Romanian emergent film critic and the editor-in-chief of Film Menu, a film magazine edited by students of the Film University in National University of Film and Drama in Bucharest (UNATC). He has written articles for several cultural publications such as Dilema Veche,Dissolved Magazine, SUB25 and he coordinates Film Menu’s weekly cineclub. At the moment he’s working on a bachelor's degree on the films and film criticism of Jonas Mekas.
Barbara Majsa was born and raised in Hungary, but currently resides in Sweden and attends Stockholm University for Cinema Studies. She has worked as a journalist since 2009, and has covered several film festivals. Barbara is the managing editor at Cinema Scandinavia, where she interviews film-makers and focuses her work on artistic and cultural products that reflect upon society - films concerning social, societal, economic and political issues.
Yulia Kuzischina is a film journalist, based in Moscow. She studied visual culture at Higher School of Economics and later started to write for two film-related websites, RussoRosso and Kinomania.ru. Currently she also works at a film sales company Ant!pode Sales & Distribution. Her main field of interest is Eastern European cinema.
Tomáš Hudák is a programmer and a film critic based in Bratislava, Slovakia. Programming at independent cultural centre A4 – Space for contemporary culture, which focus on challenging and experimental art, is his main occupation throughout a year. He is also associated with IFF Cinematik in Pieštany, Bratislava IFF, and Film Festival 4 Elements in Banská Štiavnica. Regularly writing for film magazine Kinečko, his texts also appeared in other publications such as Senses of Cinema, Tess Magazine etc. In past, he worked as a film archivist at Slovak Film Institute and his archival research resulted in two papers on local film history.
Daria Badior is a film critic and a Culture Editor of LB.ua, one of Ukraine’s biggest online newspapers. Focuses on writing about contemporary Ukrainian cinema. Also she co-curates a project on LB.ua named Short-list about young Ukrainian filmmakers. Since 2017 takes part in selecting films for Kyiv Film Critics Week, a new film festival held at the end of October. A member of FIPRESCI.
Łukasz Mańkowski Half of the Asian Cinema focused blog ‘Referat Filmowy’, Japanese Studies and Film Theory graduate from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, specializing in Asian Film. Occasionally photographer, translator and theatre-film journalist who simply loves ramen. Previously member of 5 Flavours Film Festival People’s Jury, FEFF Udine Student Campus and EIFF Student Critics Competition.
TUTORS of FIPRESCI Young Critics Warsaw Project
Yoana Pavlova is a Bulgarian writer, researcher, and programmer currently based in Paris.Her field of work includes cinema, VR, digital culture, and the New East. She is the foundingeditor of Festivalists.com (a playform for experimental media criticism), with bylines fornumerous print and online publications in Bulgarian, English, and French. Contributor to thefollowing books: Cinemas of Paris (2016, St Andrews Film Studies), Eastern Promises (2014,Festival Internacional de Cine de Donostia – San Sebastián), The Bulgarian Nouvelle Vague(2012, Edno).
Tommaso Tocci is based in Italy, where he works as a film critic and translator covering filmfestivals across Europe for international publications. He has also worked for BerlinaleTalents and for the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and he currently serves as Co-Programmer for the Saas-Fee Film Festival in Switzerland.