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)