The Confession: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

May 19, 2015 7 Min Read

Review by: Jake Keet

Plot: What’s it about?

The Confession is the second film out of the trilogy of politically charged thrillers directed by Costa-Gavras and starring Yves Montand. The first was Z, a true story about Greek government officials assassination of a rising leftist political figure. The third was State of Siege about American political involvement in South America. Out of the three many consider Z to be his masterpiece, but I would argue that The Confession is equally as powerful a force to be reckoned with.

The Confession is based on the memoirs of Artur London. Artur was a Czech Slovakian Communist of Jewish ancestry that served in the French resistance and was imprisoned in a concentration camp during World War II. He went on to become a figure in the government in Czech Slovakia. For reasons unbeknownst to himself one day he is picked up by the police and held prisoner for a couple years undergoing physical and mental torture. He is kept in solitary confinement, never allowed to see sunlight, and is persistently questioned about his activities in World War II and after. The men interrogating him prod him for a confession, but unfortunately for Artur he has nothing to confess. The film follows the course of his stay in prison leading to a trial alongside thirteen other colleagues. It is made clear by the end of the picture that Stalin attempted to have them eliminated for Anti-Semitic reasons.

The Confession is a very draining film to watch. It is hard to imagine being put into such a terrible situation when you have only tried to serve your country and political party. The movie not only serves as an excellent reminder of the worst aspects of Stalinism, but also as a great reminder that blind trust is dangerous. Watching the government officials repeatedly lie to the prisoners as they lead them closer and closer to slaughter is heartbreaking.

The movie is directed flawlessly by Costa-Gavras and acted impeccably by Yves Montand. These two are a perfect pair and are never better than here. Between this trilogy and Le Cercle Rouge, Montand has quickly risen in my rankings for my favorite French actor.

When I finished watching The Confession I felt relief. Not relief that the film was over, but relief to be blessed in so many ways. I think it is good to be reminded sometimes. I highly recommend The Confession. It will knock your socks off.

Video: How’s it look?

This is an excellent transfer from Criterion. They gave the film the treatment it deserved. Color reproduction, clarity, and depth are all excellent. Fine detail borders on incredible. Criterion gets a full standing ovation for their job here. This transfer deserves to sit on the same shelf as the incredible transfer of Le Cercle Rouge they put out a couple years ago. This is breathtakingly well done work.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Similar to the video, this French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is very high quality. For a track that is forty five years old, clarity is fantastic, depth is incredible, and the soundtrack is crystal clear. Criterion have done an excellent job of removing hiss. Considering it is a mono track, it is not particularly bombastic. Fans of the film will be pleased.

Supplements: What are the extras?

  • You Speak of Prague: The Second Trial of Artur London – An archival documentary shot by Chris Marker while working as a still photographer during the production of The Confession. This is really interesting stuff and well worth your time. (32 min, 1080p).
  • Costa-Gavras at the Midnight Sun Film Festival – Costa-Gavras discusses his life and work in detail for over an hour. This is the best feature on the disk, and one of the best features on any Criterion disk. Awesome stuff. In English, with optional English subtitles. (65 min, 1080i).

      Film school/Jacques Demy

      Rene Clair and Rene Clement

      The Sleeping Car Murders

      The thriller

      Early politics and communism

      Shock Troops


      Yves Montand

      The Confession

      State of Siege

  • Portrait London – news footage showing an interview with Artur London and his wife. Adds some extra depth to the film by seeing the man himself. In French, with optional English subtitles. (12 min, 1080i).
  • Yves Montand – in this interview Yves Montand discusses The Confession. Good stuff. In French, with optional English subtitles. (8 min, 1080p).
  • Francoise Bonnot – Film editor for Costa-Gavras and many other influential films discusses her career. This is really good.. In English, not subtitled. (18 min, 1080p).
  • John Michalczyk – author of Costa-Gavras: The Political Fiction Film discusses the The Confession and Costa-Gavras’ work.In English, not subtitled. (8 min, 1080p).
  • Leaflet – illustrated leaflet featuring an essay by scholar Dina Iordanova.

The Bottom Line

The Confession is a mind blowing experience. Acting and directing are perfection in the pairing of Montand and Costa-Gavras. The transfer by Criterion is top notch and the special features are absolutely fantastic. The fact that there was over an hour long interview with Costa-Gavras would have made the disk worth owning in itself. Due to the nature of the film the replay value is a little less than some other films. That said, I look forward to showing my son The Confession and reminding him to not blindly follow. There is nothing more dangerous to a citizen’s safety than unwarranted trust of one’s government. Highly Recommended.

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