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Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense

Friday, March 8, 2013
8:40 p.m. I Confess
Alfred Hitchcock (U.S., 1953)

Hitchcock’s perennial transference-of-guilt theme finds its most literal expression in I Confess, a sober and often compelling reflection on crime, punishment, and forgiveness that pits secular and spiritual forms of authority against each other. At the center of the conflict is Montgomery Clift as Father Michael Logan, a priest who hears a killer’s confession and is himself accused of the crime. Bound by the confidentiality of the confessional, Logan cannot save himself from the law, or from the burden of knowledge—about not only the murderer’s sins, but his own. (The original story revealed Logan as the father of an illegitimate child; the screenplay was rewritten to sanitize the character’s past, but the sense of helpless responsibility remains.) Clift’s pained restraint contrasts starkly with the dynamism of cinematographer Robert Burks’s images, laden with Christian iconography and shot on location in Quebec City.

—Juliet Clark

• Written by George Tabori, William Archibald, based on the play Nos deux consciences by Paul Anthelme. Photographed by Robert Burks. With Montgomery Clift, Anne Baxter, Karl Malden, Brian Aherne. (95 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Warner Bros.)