Berlin Review: A Confession
After winning a Crystal Bear for Best Short Film (in the Generation14Plus section) of the Berlin Film Festival with Mike (Dir. Petros Silvestros, 2014, UK), Petros Silvestros returns to the Berlinale - also to the Generation 14plus Section - with his latest film, A Confession. The film had its world premiere on February 9th. (Edit - since this piece was written, the film went on to win the Crystal Bear making Silvestros the first director to win the award two years in a row).
A Confession is a drama piece that takes a look at religion by focusing on the ritual of confession, an act through which one's sins can be atoned. Already from the opening scene, where a man looks smaller and smaller as he approaches an imposing cathedral, we get the feeling that religion, especially in its institutional form, has equal powers to to absolve or doom individuals.
In its first minutes, the film focuses on showing rather than telling. The silence, a deserted church and a sombre atmosphere are clearly in contrast with the turmoil that is consuming the protagonist. As he approaches the confession box, we expect some difficult truths to be let out. The minutes that follow, which depict the uneasy confessional exchange between the man and Father Maloney, are positively chilling . With a flickering candle as the only light source and strong shadows being cast on their faces, the film once again resorts to visuals to fully convey the anguish and tension the two characters find themselves in.
As we saw in Mike, Silvestros knows how to build suspense and keep his audience guessing. However, unlike in his previous film, where the audience partook in the titular character's disorientation, here we begin to suspect what the confession might turn out to be and as such, we look out for signs to confirm or dismiss our guesses. This is not to say that the film is predictable, but rather that we are given a privileged position, an almost prescient condition, not unlike that of a god. This feeling is supported by the expert use of camerawork, which especially in the first scenes sees us looking down at the protagonist, as if sharing our point of view with that of a superior being. As such, we find ourselves constantly turning back to the characters and their exchange, very much hoping to be mistaken.
As more details are brought to light, the confession increasingly feels like a game of chess, except the blacks and the whites are not so well defined. Looking back at the moves we are left with a sense of doubt – was the confession we just saw the one that really should have been taking place?
19 February 2015, by Chiara Puntil