Who would dare to remake a film from the Master of Suspense? Seven years ago Gus Van Sant won jeers for his shot-for-shot recreation of Hitchcock’s Psycho. Now first-time writer-director Jonathan Meyers has made his writing-directing debut with Confession, a direct-to-DVD loose remake of Hitch’s I Confess, a wrong-man crime drama about a Catholic priest wrongly suspected of murder and prevented from implicating the real killer by the seal of confession.
Confession moves the setting to a Catholic boarding school for boys, where resident bad-boy Luther Scott (Chris Pine) runs a student black market on booze, cigarettes and other contraband. Luther’s lawless ways are eventually exposed, leading to an act of revenge with tragic consequences. In a moment of panic, Luther finds himself confiding in one of his teachers, Fr. Michael Kelly (Cameron Daddo), an upright priest with a secret in his past.
Reverent, well directed, and well acted by a respectable cast including Bruce Davison, Tom Bosley and Peter Green, Confession’s weakness is also its promotional gimmick: Meyers directed the film at 24, but wrote the screenplay ten years earlier as a student in a Catholic boarding school.
Unsurprisingly, the screenplay makes all the mistakes you would expect from a 14-year-old. The characters are flat and act out of character or make implausible decisions as required. More seriously, the killer rather than the priest has become the protagonist, undermining the wrong-man dilemma central to the original drama.
The priest’s dilemma is further undermined by inconsistent treatment of what he can or can’t reveal about the confessions he heard. Even in Hitchcock the dilemma doesn’t really work by canon-law standards; the priest would be allowed to say more than he does without breaking the seal. Confession, though, heightens the problem by allowing the priest to confirm the name of a student whose earlier confession he heard, but then not allowing him to say “At the time you’re asking me about I was hearing another boy’s confession.” (Actually, canonically speaking, the priest could even name the boy as long as he didn’t hint at the nature of the sins confessed. Alternatively, he could go so far as to say “I heard the killer’s confession” as long as he didn’t give away the identity of the killer.)
Still, Meyers’s fluid direction and the solid acting keep Confession watchable, and as a collaboration across time between Meyers the 24-year-old director and Meyers the 14-year-old high-school freshman, it’s is an intriguing record of the development of a promising talent. Catholics and other Christians interested in positive portrayals of the Church in film may find it worth their while.
Hitchcock’s underrated I Confess may or may not not quite rank with his greatest masterpieces, but it offers perhaps the most compelling variation on the director’s favorite theme, the innocent man wrongly accused.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.