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I Confess

(1953, Hitchcock)
A film from the 1950s

"I never thought of the priesthood as offering a hiding place."

Confession, or the Sacrament of Penance, is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church through which any person can confess their transgressions to God through a priest. Intended to provide healing for the soul as well as to regain forgiveness, the confession creates a "sacred trust" between the penitent and the priest that, according to Roman Catholic canon law, is "inviolable". It adds that it is "forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason". But what if the sin is murder and the confessor ends up as the accused instead of the penitent?

I Confess follows Father Logan (Montgomery Clift), who finds himself in the above predicament after the housekeeper of his church confesses killing a lawyer. Unfortunately for Logan, as a result of a series of coincidences which ties him to the lawyer, he ends up as the main suspect in the eyes of relentless Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden), along with Ruth (Anne Baxter), a childhood friend of Logan that might also be tied to the lawyer in some way.

This is one of Hitchcock's lesser known films and one of those that's not as well regarded as his other work, which is probably the reason why I hadn't seen it yet. However, when writer Tony Lee Moral spoke highly of it on a past episode of the podcast, I decided to bump it up on my Hitchcock queue. The film comes at a time when Hitchcock seemed to be interested in more thematically deep films that explored the nature of man rather than more stylistic and visual exercises.

Unfortunately, he doesn't do as much as he could or should with the premise or the characters. Even though he hints at thought-provoking themes, there really isn't much exploration about Logan's conflict as a priest regarding this confession or much introspection into his frame of mind about his relationship with Ruth. There isn't a lot of interaction with the actual killer either, which also eliminates a lot of the tension that the film could've had, resorting instead to the relationship between Logan and Ruth, which is not as developed as it should've to bear any significant weight.

It is said that the film went through a series of script revisions and re-writes, which I think is noticeable in the end product. Regardless of that, I Confess still manages to be a fairly decent thriller. Hitchcock's direction lacks most of his iconic flair, but it is still effective and well done. The performances are also solid, especially Malden and Roger Dann as Ruth's husband, Pierre, who I think gives some depth to a character that could've ended up with none. Even with this strengths, I must confess that this is mid-tier Hitchcock.