Directed by Costa-Gavra
Written by Jorge Semprun from a book by Lise & Artur London
Starring Yves Montand, Simone Signoret
Costa-Gavras was one of the most political of all film directors, often basing him movies on real-life political events. His movie Z was a condemnation of the Greek junta of the 1960s. But Costa-Garvras hated repression in all forms. Where Z was an attack on the right wing, The Confession did the same for a communist regime.
It’s the story of Artur Ludvik (Yves Montand), aka Gerard, who is a vice-minister of Foreign Affairs in communist Czechoslovakia. He is suddenly arrest – for no reason he can think of – and thrown into jail. Government agents harass and torture him to confess various crimes that probably were never committed. Even his wife Lisa (Simone Signoret) begins to think he might be guilty.
The movie is taken from Artur and Lisa London’s account of Artur’s actual trial, where he was sentenced to life in prison. It’s a harrowing movie, where one can see just how torture can break down a man into confessing anything.
The most memorable scene for me was toward the end. Gerard had confessed and was being marched to his show trial, along with several others. They are given back the clothes they were arrested in, but everyone has been so starved that they fit far too loosely. One of the defendants has his pants fall down, starting a wave of laughter among the prisoners. It’s a wonderful and fully human moment.
The movie is memorable (if for nothing more than the poster) and still has a lot of relevance today.