Film about confession up for an Oscar?

From Headline Bistro.  I have not seen this movie.
Hollywood Goes to Confession:
The Hollywood glitterati aren’t  leaving religion at the door this Oscar season. In fact, they might award it.
You see, buried in the Oscar nominations this year is an unlikely suspect: a young boy preparing to make his first confession.
If you haven’t seen The Confession—a live-action short film by Tanel Toom—you should.  It isn’t an easy filmette to watch.  Like Oscar-winner Doubt (2008), it is possible to spin the story from both a pro-Catholic and anti-Catholic perspective. (And take to heart the synopsis’ warning: “tragic”).
But what it nails, it nails (almost literally, with its crucifix-like poster). It is rare to see a film delve so deeply—and express so vicerally—the life-changing power of a sacrament.
So often, sacraments only make it to the silverscreen to convey a generic moment—matrimony (for weddings), and Extreme Unction (to ease or express the finality of death).
But confession, doesn’t really have a secular equivalent—meaning that when it does appear on screen, the director ends up delving deeper into what it means.
From the film perspective, when you think about it, confession is a uniquely difficult sacrament to “study” for a movie. For one thing, no matter whether you are an actor, or director, or screenwriter…or plumber, or professor, or violinist, for that matter…every person’s experience of confession is completely personal: it is shaped by your sins, and by which priests you spoke with.
There is no way to really go and “just study it from a distance.” And those who have the most experience with it—witnessing a hundred times the number of confessions of your average Catholic Mary or Joe—are priests, who can’t really talk about it.
This makes Hollywood’s treatment fascinating. Confession is both a world we know intimately, and a world we know little. (It is also unfortunately easy to “get in character”).
So while Hollywood examines its artist consciences at the Oscars, and Catholics “get in the mood” for confession as Lent approaches, let’s listen in on what the silver-screen Joneses have been saying about the secret life and death of sin over the years.
First up: The Confession (2010)

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Ellen says:

    I looked up some reviews, and they all pretty much had the same spin on it with one saying it was a devastating blow against Catholicism.

    I wish someone would post the plot with spoilers.

  2. The first two minutes or so are on the Oscar site. It looks well made. The tone seems one of black humor, but not of blasphemy. Hard to tell if the next 24 minutes stays that way. I doubt it was meant to be anti-Catholic. It’s more like Catholic young people trying to make a sort of Twilight Zone or Midnight Theater ironic story of crime.

    First off, is there really ANYWHERE that leaves Confession until you’re NINE? Sheesh, by then you’re in 4th grade! The serious mayhem of school life was well underway! In addition, they have them wearing white robes. What? Are you kidding me? (I’m not disbelieving the filmmakers. I’m just shocked at the ever-new lameness of contemporary Catholic life throughout the world. It’s always something, and it detracts from the seriousness of the sacrament.)

    Second, the plot is that a fourth grader at Catholic school has nothing on his conscience, so he and a buddy decide to do something sinful so he’ll have something to tell, but it all goes wrong. With a fourth grader? Nothing to tell? Oh, please. (If we were talking a five or six or seven year old, as is proper for one’s First Confession, then sure. That would make the stupidity plot easier to understand, too. But I suspect that the filmmakers couldn’t get permission to use kids that young as actors, or they couldn’t find any that could. I would rather believe that than First Confession at NINE.)

    Third, the kids do something to annoy a neighbor in their first thirty seconds on film. There’s all the sin you need, right there. Movie over. No need for the IQ-drop plot.

  3. Well, I’ve looked everywhere I can think of for spoilers, and no go. Though there’s a lot of “this film proves that Catholicism causes wickedness! Mwahaha!”, it’s hard to tell if they’re just typical film fan jerks who see every film about Joan of Arc and Francis as intrinsically anti-Catholic, or if the super-secret twist at the end is that the priest hearing confessions is a mass-murdering pedophile. Shrug. People are hard to figure out, these days, because they have such bad comprehension and logic skills.

  4. flyfree432 says:

    To answer the question, there are still many Catholic churches that do not require confession at all, if by 4th grade. ;)

  5. amenamen says:

    Hollywood’s obsession

    Hollywood seems unable to leave the Catholic Church alone.
    They fear it, misunderstand it, and hate it, but they cannot bring themselves to ignore it.
    Why is this?
    They act like Herod, who imprisoned John the Baptist.
    Herod feared John, but he was fascinated by him, and he liked to listen to his words.

  6. Ack, we did have a discussion about that just recently, didn’t we? My mind refuses to retain the information, because it’s so starkly incomprehensible to me, that priests would do such a thing to their parish’s kids. Every kid I knew could be a mean little kid, so I don’t see where people get these ideas that kids aren’t sinning enough to have to confess.

  7. Desertfalcon says:

    I was fully capable of sin at age nine and am embarrassed to recall some of those things that I did at that age. My apologies to a few shop keepers with missing candy from that time for one thing…

  8. Tina in Ashburn says:

    @amenamen: great comment!

  9. I didn’t even know there was a movie out about confession. But if the objective was to make a sensitive, sympathetic movie about confession, then why not make it about an adult going to confession after many years away from the sacrament?

    And by the way, a nine-year-old kid has P-L-E-N-T-Y to confess. I have had clients that young in juvenile court.

  10. Sandra_in_Severn says:

    Wait, I thought this was about the Kiefer Sutherland film “The Confession” at first, the trailer it is like “Jack Bauer” is in the confessional (old pre-modernization) of a very identifiable Roman Catholic Church, with John Hurt as the Confessor. If you like the old traditional style, you will enjoy the cinematography the first couple minutes.

    It’s an old cliche story, what if someone confesses that they committed murder? What does the priest do? What if the person confesses that they plan to do murder once more?

    The trailer shows bits and pieces of Kiefer’s character whom I venture to guess is a hit-man. There was nothing about children, or white robes… so I am not sure what everyone else was watching. The trailer is available on Hulu or Apple/iTunes Movie Trailers.

  11. bheffer says:

    I think one of the most positive film treatments of catholic confession is in the film Angela’s Ashes when the young McCourt is praying by the statue of St Francis following the death of his girl friend. The words of the priest were sensible and wise and clearly brought the lad the reconciliation that the sacrament intends.

  12. digdigby says:

    The great Lilli Palmer realizes that she has just confessed…to the Gestapo.  Don't you HATE when that happens. Much under-rated film with much of Catholic interest which of course means human interest (in the deepest sense of the word). The Counterfeit Traitor with William Holden.

  13. kolbe1019 says:

    I recently made a short film about confession. It’s only 7 mins long and it manages to scare your pants off and melt your heart in a very short period of time. It is based on an event in the life of John Bosco.

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