THE CONFESSIONAL is a gorgeous film that pays homage to film history while creating its own niche within it. The story, about a long-held family secret, uses Alfred Hitchcock's film I CONFESS to give the secret context, shape, and meaning. The action shuttles between 1952, when mysterious
events took place, to 1995, as a man finally learns about his family's past.
Following the death of his father, Paul-Emile (Francois Papineau), Pierre Lamontagne (Lothaire Bluteau)--a man in his thirties--returns from several years in China to claim the family home left to him. Here he is flooded with memories.
1952. Alfred Hitchcock is in Quebec City, which he has chosen as the location for his film I CONFESS. The film concerns a priest who is falsely accused of murder; he has heard the confession of the real killer, but because of his sacred vows cannot use this information in his own defense. During
this same time period, the center of the Lamontagne family is Francoise (Marie Gignac), who, in her 20s, has had several miscarriages. Her 16-year-old sister Rachel (Suzanne Clement) has recently moved into the Lamontagne home. Rachel becomes pregnant and won't say who the father is. After the
baby is born, she commits suicide. Soon afterwards, Francoise is finally able to conceive, and Pierre is born. Rachel's son Marc (Patrick Goyette) is adopted by Paul-Emile and Francoise and raised as Pierre's brother.
Back in 1995, when Marc fails to show up for Paul-Emile's funeral, Pierre hunts him down and finds him living in a cheap hotel, the father of a son by an exotic dancer. But Marc leaves the dancer and starts a relationship with an older man, whom Pierre discovers was the priest from the
Lamontagne's church. Thinking that the priest is Marc's true father, Pierre and Marc try to discover the truth about Marc's past. Eventually Marc learns the truth, and like his mother, he commits suicide. It is eventually discovered (as in the Hitchcock film) that the priest had been falsely
accused. Marc's real father was Paul-Emile; the family had wanted to conceal the fact that Paul-Emile had impregnated his wife's sister.
THE CONFESSIONAL is a rich, rewarding film. The beautiful cinematography adds texture to the web-like story and helps to bring together the many connected pieces of the film. The past and present are seamlessly intertwined, as are the many layers within the Lamontagne family structure. Music from
a modern radio continues to play on the old radio as the scene shifts to the past; characters walk down a hallway, which turns the corner to the same location, but in a scene that takes place years earlier. As Pierre moves into the family house, he paints the walls to cover old stains left from
paintings and other momentos. And as his time there progresses, he repaints the walls different colors, but each time fails to remove the remnants of the past until the mystery is finally solved.
Even though we are clued in to the fact that the film's plot has been set up to mirror that of the Hitchcock film from the very beginning, we become so caught up in the visuals and characterizations that we don't figure out the surprise until the very end. The visual manipulation of our
perceptions of time through color and sound reminds the viewer of the wonders of cinema, in addition to drawing the audience into the CONFESSIONAL's narrative. Finally, the film augments its clever storytelling and stunning cinematography with outstanding performances from all. Though this
Canadian film didn't receive much attention in the United States, it was one of the most striking films of 1996. (Violence, sexual situations, adult situations, substance abuse, profanity.)
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- Released: 1996
- Rating: NR
- Review: THE CONFESSIONAL is a gorgeous film that pays homage to film history while creating its own niche within it. The story, about a long-held family secret, uses Alfred Hitchcock's film I CONFESS to give the secret context, shape, and meaning. The action shutt… (more)