Wednesday, April 06, 2011
#96: I Confess
I Confess was directed by the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock at a time that can be loosely referred as his peak -1953. Adapted from a French play, it has a story that is blessed with a mouth-watering plot. A murderer confesses his crime to a priest- Father Michael Logan (Montgomery Clift). Through a series of circumstances the priest himself becomes the accused and is forced to undergo trial. Under the vows of a church, the priest can never reveal a confession to the police. What will the priest do ? Or as the tagline of the movie goes - What would you do, if you knew what he knew...
Shot in the city of Quebec, that tantalizing question becomes the focal point in the movie. All the characters in the movie - investigating cop Larrue ( Karl Malden), the priest's friend Ruth (Anne Baxter) and the killer and his wife Alma played by O.E. Hasse and Dolly Hass respectively, all observe the priest on the periphery asking different questions. Larrue is a man of reason and wants to know the motive a priest might have in murdering someone. For the murderer it's a constant feeling of alarm as to how long will the priest hold up before giving into police interrogations and Ruth is worried if Logan will be wrongfully implicated in the murder. The beauty of I Confess lies in the single-minded pursuit of these characters towards these questions and the fact that all of them tie back to the protagonist Father Logan.
The dashing Clift, one of the finest method actors of his era, essays Father Logan with incredible assurance. From his gait to his expressions that just about betray the sense that he knows more than he should, Clift slips into the role easier than the proverbial duck to water. While Anne Baxter is a tad irritating as the overzealous lover friend who had a past with Father Logan, the supporting cast of Karl Malden, O.E. Hasse and Dolly Hass play crucial roles and play them well enough to merit praise. With the help of some stunning photography, the movie saves itself from being an average offering. A particular area of predictability is the climax scene and yet Hitchcock wove an interesting twist in the tale to sustain viewer interest. This is not to fault Hitchcock but because the buildup was so strong, irrespective of what came in the end, the climax would've fallen short.
Having said that, I Confess is a neatly bound story in the hands of a director with oodles of experience in the suspense and thriller genre. The movie is brilliant in parts but it just didn't have the ending it required to become yet another North by Northwest. An innocent man running away from cops because of a falsely accused crime is the stuff that Hitchcock can conjure up in his dreams and still make a hit out of. I Confess lays a fertile context to exploit this strength of his and almost comes out a winner. It might not have hit the bulls eye but let it be known that it barely missed it.