I Confess (1953)

I Confess (1953), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

My wife asked "What was that one with Montgomery Clift as a priest...?" I might not have gotten this down for a while otherwise, but it plays better than I remember, even if not completely satisfactory.

The strongest feature is Clift's wonderful performance as the wrongfully accused priest who cannot defend himself. This despite Hitchcock's frustration with the Method acting. It works well here.

Karl Malden is a dependable rock as a police detective who knows when something is not quite right. Anne Baxter was brought in at the last minute.

This is a strangely structured film for Hitchcock. We have the innocent man falsely accused, but his conscience renders him passive and defenseless. He must suffer silently and is saved by a twist of "luck".

Other problems: it is humorless and plot heavy with too much of the story told in flashbacks. The villain is not much of a character and, like the hero, doesn't do much.

Of course, suffering for the sins of others is a Christian theme, and you can see it played out by a priest in another recent film: Calvary (2014) with Brendan Gleeson.

The Truffaut interviews have a long section on this title. Hitchcock admits the humorlessness is a problem and says it shouldn't have been made because non-Catholic audiences simply couldn't accept the priest being bound by the seal of the confessional.


Hitchcock: Do you feel there is a connection between my Jesuit upbringing and the heavy-handedness of I Confess?

Truffaut: Not necessarily. I attributed that to the austerity of the Canadian climate, which is further weighted down by the Teutonic gravity of Otto Keller and his wife.

Like Hitchcock, the murderer's wife is named "Alma".

Banned in Ireland: a priest can't have romantic relations with a woman, even if it did happen in his earlier life.

Dimitri Tiomkin score, overly dramatic. Filmed in Quebec.