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Patience is a virtue lost on many modern films, most so action-oriented and over cut as to become almost exhausting experiences. The art of the slow burn has become something of an anomaly of late, as few filmmakers take the risk in pacing their stories so audiences must pay more attention. Not so with The Confessions (Italian: Le confessioni), a gripping thriller that is stronger at its start than its end but is nonetheless a compelling visual experience that longs for its audience to search its message.
International Monetary Fund director Daniel Roché (Daniel Auteuil) leads a G8 meeting at a luxury hotel on the German coast where several of the world’s most powerful and influential economists attend, though there are others on his list of invitees that seem more than unusual, including renowned children’s author and ‘living legend’ Claire Seth (Connie Nielsen) and aging rocker Michel Wintzl (Johan Heldenbergh), though most curious is an Italian monk named Roberto Salus (Toni Servillo), a Carthusian who rarely speaks. He learns he is called upon because of a book he wrote and that in private, Roché wishes for him to hear his confession. When Rocheé turns up dead the next morning from an apparent suicide, questions loom about what he said to Salus and whether Salus might be more involved than it seems.
Written and directed by Roberto Andò, The Confessions is a stylistic whodunnit, like a sordid game of Clue where everyone looks suspicious and they all points fingers. There are great stakes involved as Rocheé was about to propose measures that could effect the world economy but at what cost, a secret so powerful should even God know? This leaves, as one character notes, the monk himself as the man’s suicide note of sorts, but one that has taken a vow of secrecy and silence, making him seem the perfect bearer of such information. Or is he? And what does he know? Naturally, they each attempt to collude what they can from the monk, confessing on their own, but some take more notice of other things occurring on the compound, including the intense security.
Clearly, the film is seeped in symbolism and allegory as it skewers global financial corruption, the players representing much more than the characters they play and Andò weaves a thick tale of intrigue among them, mixing three languages and lots of subterfuge in tasking his audience with deciphering what is happening. It’s heavy stuff. “Democracy is a fib,” Roché extolls and we watch as those with all the power balance that truth. But while trying to untangle all the laborious dialogue, Andò does as much with the imagery as he does with words, using color and lines as well as space to help us decode the story. Evening, darkly-lit swims in cavernous green marble pools, balcony talks amid creeping ivy, and long conversations in umber-toned rooms are but just a few of the often stunning ways we are immersed in the world of The Confessions. Even if we can’t always follow what is being said, we are lulled along as if in a very dark fairy tale, one with an amusing if not ambiguous finale.
The Confessions is a slow film, purposefully so, unafraid to linger in stillness, one where dialogue is the real weapon and grand reveals are made with almost fragile designs, however there is a weightiness to it that sometimes hinders deeper investment. Servillo is magnificent and Nelson does great work too, but there is a detachment to much of the film that leaves gaps in the experience, especially as they mystery wanes and the sermoning ramps. A beautifully-made film, there is much here to challenge the viewer and perhaps some advice for central bankers.
Movie description: The Confessions is a 2017 drama about an Italian monk invited to a G8 Summit for a very specific reason that makes him a man of great consequence.
Director(s): Roberto Andò
Actor(s): Toni Servillo, Daniel Auteuil, Pierfrancesco Favino, Connie Nelson