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Research Essay

I Confess

Shreejita Ghosh 20171098

“I only want to clear a murder”, shouted Inspector Larrue. “Well I only want to clear father
Logan,” yelled Ruth.
This quote sums up the movie, I Confess in 2 precise sentences.
I Confess, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and released in 1953 is the story of a priest and his
dilemma surrounding the law of man and the law of God.
Father Logan is placed in a difficult position when he is framed for murder by his help, Otto who
has confessed to him of his crime. This film highlights the dilemma us as humans face in any
given situation. All the characters in the film are conflicted, be it the wife of Otto, Alma or the
priests former flame, Ruth. Each of them living with a lie but also wanting to protect it from the
world. Every character strikes a note with the audience because they express real emotions.
Sometimes one must hide what they feel for years on end simply to save someone else’s feelings.
We can’t declare feelings as being right or wrong. Often movies get so lost is establishing
actions as right or wrong, they often confuse it with feelings which are shown to be non-existent.
It also explores the concept of the law depending on who is addressing it. No character is pure
and no character is evil. Everyone is shown to be flawed and yet possesses kindness. This
research paper attempts to bring these conflicts to light while also studying each character and
their own bubble of disarmament. Further it talks about how a movie like this and concepts like
these are shown with respect to religion in India. Religion plays a huge role in the lives of people
in various countries be it Christianity in the US or Hinduism and Islam in India. Movies about
them are never easy to make as every person will have a strong stance on the commentary made
for against their religion. This movie proved very difficult to make keeping in mind the opinions
and oppositions of the Catholic Church to get this film released, especially in a period like 1953.
The Dilemma between Law of God and Law of Man:

The Law followed by Catholics is different from the law of men. Catholics believe that
when someone commits a sin, they must immediately confess to a priest and once they
have confessed, they are absolved of their sins. When a priest is listening to a confession,
he takes the place of god and as the holder of this position he must not violate it by telling
anyone of the confession. He has taken the place of god not a judge so it is his job to
merely listen, not pass a judgment on the sin that the person may have committed. Upon
hearing Otto’s confession, it is very visibly noticeable that Father Logan looks very
conflicted. On one hand he knows that he cannot support a murderer but on the other
hand he, by the law that he follows, cannot reveal what he knows.
Father Logan does not situate himself in the context of the law of man. He chooses to
adopt the law of silence and establishes in every interview and also at his very own trial
that he cannot speak of whatever he might know. This only furthers the polices suspicion
on him. He has taken upon himself the moral responsibility imbibing the quote- “We are
all responsible and I am more responsible than others.” He is ready to undergo the test of
exemplarity and be a good example of having a good conscience as a priest.
There are several instances where he is faced with situations where he has to deal with
immoral behavior simply to uphold his stance but his truth remains unshakable. Watching
Otto lie stating that Father Logan seemed very distressed on the night of the murder after
having taken an oath and knowing that this is the very person who is framing him and yet
not saying a word takes great strength. There are moments when I as an audience wished
he would reveal the murderer as it would have prevented the deaths of three more people.
He held Alma in his arms knowing the words she wanted to say but unable to say them.
When finally Otto admits, not purposely, that he was the one who committed the murders
a weight is lifted off of Father Logan’s shoulders. He was no longer liable. He had
retained his conscience and upheld his responsibility without compromising on what he
believed in. Father Logan was ready to have abuses hurled at him and be called a
murderer for the rest of his life if it would mean upholding the words of god and adhering
to his law.
Inspector Larrue however prescribed to a different understanding of law. He believed in
the law of man. He believed that murder was a crime and the right criminal should face
the punishment fit for the crime. It is this belief that made him impatient with Father
Logan. He could not understand why Father Logan was not willing to speak when he
knew the truth. He perhaps knew that Father Logan was not the murderer but until he had
conclusive proof of the otherwise this was his best option. It was in search of this proof
that he became relentless. He questioned Father Logan and Ruth time and again to get
them to spill the information. It was in this line of questioning that he managed to get
Ruth to open up about her part of the story. However, with regards to Father Logan he
was still unable to have him reveal key information.
Inspector Larrue was a trusting man and he wanted to trust the words of Father Logan but
it was simply that Father Logan had no words to state. He had decided in himself that he
would not be saying a word. This would not have been an easy decision, and throughout
out the film the internal struggle is visible. While this struggle is visible, the
repercussions are shown just as harshly. His choice of not speaking up remains the same
no matter the pressure, the lies and the voices that surround him.
The ideals of both these men are rigid and the difficulties only strengthened them. Larrue
does not want to insistently pressure a man of god but he is willing to do so and dig deep
until he reached what he was looking for. Father Logan did not want to lie or not be
helpful to a man who was simply trying to do his job but his beliefs stopped him from
doing so.
In their back and forth one thing that is visible is a display of respect from both men. For
each other’s stance. While they wished to be in any other position than the one they were
put in they appreciated the courage that the other had. When Otto finally reveals that it
was him a certain amount of comfort is visible on Larrue’s face as well as he had finally
reached the truth and while no truth in situations like these are desirable it lifted all doubt
off of Father Logan and the trust that he had in Father Logan was reaffirmed.
The Dilemma Between Love and Commitment:

Father Logan was a brave and selfless man. From the get go we are made aware of this.
His care of Otto and his wife, Alma in ensuring that they are given jobs, a home and
everything else one might need for survival highlights this right in the start. However, the
true essence of where this need to be helpful comes from is shown halfway through the
film. We are shown that from a very young age Father Logan has shown these
characteristics. When the country went to war, he left the woman he loved to go and fight
for his country, not knowing when or even if he would ever be back or see her again.
While away, he did initially write but slowly his writing stopped. His love did not
disappear. He simply felt obligated to focus all his energy on the war that surrounded
him. However, on returning, he found out that the love of his life, Ruth, has married
someone else. Feeling heartbroken and knowing that he would never feel this way again,
he turned to commit himself from the military service to another commitment which took
you to another land. Only this time the land was one which was physically close but
spiritually miles apart. What this film does beautifully is highlight the dilemma from both
sides. It does not make us pick who is right or wrong. It simply presents to us the two
different worlds the lovers chose and how it impacts the love that they will always share.
While Ruth waited for Father Logan, her patience grew thin but her love did not.
Disappointed and shattered at not hearing from him anymore, she agreed to settle for
whoever came next. However, she always remembered the date on which Father Logan
was scheduled to return. She went with a bouquet of flowers, secretly praying and hoping
that he would return and just for a day she wanted to be her young and in love self again.
Not disclosing to him that she was married, they picnicked under the bright sun acting as
though nothing had changed, knowing in themselves that in reality nothing was the same.
When Vilette, the lawyer appeared the next morning and found them both in his garden,
Ruth did not merely fear that her husband would find out about it but she feared even
more that Vilette would inform Father Logan that Ruth was indeed married. When Father
Logan found out, he was heartbroken. However, he was a man of commitment and
loyalty and did not to be involved with a married woman. They di not see each other for 5
years to fulfil their responsibilities in their chosen world. However out of sight and out of
mind does not work for love. The love remains. Throughout the five years the love
remained. Ruth only saw Father Logan again when he was being ordained and that was
when Vilette’s blackmailing started.
Father Logan was with Ruth the night of Vilettes murder, consoling her and assuring her
that everything would be alright in the face of the final threat that Vilette had made.
While being questioned by Inspector Larrue on what Father Logan was doing at the time
of the murder, he did not want to reveal that he was with Ruth so he merely stated that he
did not want to disclose who he was with. The love that remained prompted him to
ensure that Ruth was okay. However, he knew that this love could never be made public
because a greater love had been made public which was the love he had dedicated
himself to for the rest of his life. On becoming a priest in Christianity you attain a level of
spirituality which not everyone can attain. You let go of the lustful parts of your emotions
to feel closer to god as his disciple. But love is a feeling which cannot just disappear. It
encourages you to be selfish in a way nothing else can. Father Logan was ready to be
convicted for a crime he did not commit to maintain a good conscience and follow the
law of god and be selfless but in his love for Ruth he was selfish. He confessed to Ruth
that he loved her but his love for God was greater. However, in that slight selfish love for
her he wanted to protect her. Ruth on the other hand wanted to protect Father Logan. She
knew that her love too must be hidden from the world to protect another commitment she
made in front of god. However, her love forced her to speak and tell everyone that she
was in fact with Father Logan at the time of the murder. The title of the film is not only
with regards to the confession of Otto but also in regards to the confession of Ruth and
the night that they spent in the gazebo. She revealed everything to her husband and her
lawyer knowing very well how it would hurt her reputation but ready to do anything to
prove Father Logan’s innocence. When she found out that the murder was committed
after she left Father Logan, while she prayed for his acquittal, she secretly hoped that he
had done it, just one act to prove the love was still reciprocal and he had actively taken a
step to prove it. On finding out that it was in fact Otto who had committed the murder she
merely hid her disappointment and asker her husband to take her home.
The Dilemma of a troubled Wife:

Aside from Father Logan, the only person who knew of the crimes that Otto had
committed was his wife Alma. Alma is shown to be a shy and timid woman. While she
acknowledges in herself that the crime that was committed by her husband was fiercely
wrong, she does not want her husband to suffer. She does not want to be left alone. In
that sense she is selfish. She is a loyal and devoted wife and does not want harm to come
to her husband. In her scenes with Father Logan she is always shown to be flustered and
scared. She knows that Father Logan knows what her husband has done and she doesn’t
have the nerve to face him and yet she wants to be there at every instance to ensure that
Father Logan does not tell anyone lest they go and report her husband to the police.
However, at the trial we see her slowly moving away from wanting to protect her
husband. As she sees her husband remove his gun in preparation for if Father Logan does
reveal him and then watches him openly frame Father Logan, she realizes that it was no
longer about simply saving her husband but it was about scapegoating another man for
his actions. This was guilt she could not live with. Especially when that scapegoat is a
man who has given her a home and a job. More importantly when she sees Father Logan
remain quite even after Otto makes false claims her guilt buried itself deeper into her
heart. Upon acquittal when they left the court house she saw people hurl abuses and
insults at Father Logan and at this point the guilt had overcome her. Legally speaking she
did not have to stand up for him and try to reveal who the real killer was as Father had
already been acquitted but it was the morality of it and the guilt which festered inside her
which made her shout and try to reveal that the real killer was husband before he realized
what she was going to do and shot her. However, even in her last breath she tried her best
to speak and say her husband’s name to absolve Father Logan as she knew he would
never say anything and she felt that it was her duty to do it in honoring him for his
Otto Adler:

We all have a conscience in us which makes us do the right thing. Sometimes we become
selfish and accept the bad as a mere hiccup in that path but when the hiccup becomes a
constant feature, it starts to overcome us and we feel the need as human beings’ part of a
society with a moral obligation to speak the truth so as to not harm anyone else. While
this feeling develops in most people as it did with Alma it was the reverse for Otto. Otto
had gone to rob his boss, Vilette, who conducted shady business as a lawyer so as to
create a better life for himself and his wife. However, since his boss was still in the
house, in a fit of confusion, he killed him. In the first scene of the film we see Otto as a
repentful man who feels guilty for having done what he did and confessing his crime in
hopes of having his sins washed away. However, as the film progresses, we see that Otto
does not really feel any real guilt for what he has done. He simply wants to be protected
and not go to jail at any cost. He became increasingly vile in his behavior and began to
taunt Father Logan in reminding of his duties. The fear soon began to overtake him and
he decided to carry his gun in case Father Logan forgot his duties.

Otto’s false statements at Father Logan’s trial along with the planting of the cloak
proved just how far he was willing to go to protect himself. When he realized that his
wife might reveal what he did he showed no hesitation in lifting his gun and shooting her
after which he proceeded to run to a hotel where he shot 2 more people. He became a
mad man not ready to accept the consequences which would eventually come his way. In
the end he led to his own demise by admitting that he killed Vilette thinking that Father
Logan had already revealed it to the police. He refused to place his trust in anyone and
decided to resort to violence to silence anyone who opened their mouth against him. He
carried no moral responsibility on his shoulder and everyone else was worse off because
of it.
Comparison to Other Films Shown During the Course:

While the other films that we have seen during the period of this course deal with the
nuances of the law and how they can be used to free a man or bring about a change in
society, this film focuses more on the general concept of law and on how some may not
even choose to accept this law that we dissect so carefully. In every other film the law of
the man is blindly accepted. Within this battle field all the battles are fought.

Be it in To Kill a Mockingbird wherein Atticus Finch is trying to prove a black man

innocent when he is accused of rape or Philadelphia where Joe Miller is trying to show
the homophobia that existed in an office space which led to the dismissal of his client. In
all these cases the common law of the land was used to make a point. However, in the
movie I confess, Father Logan simply does not situate himself within this law. This law
would dictate that murder is the gravest of crimes and if one knows of anyone who has
committed a murder he must immediately step forth and inform the police as his civic
duty. However, Father Logan believes that he answers to a higher power. The knowledge
of the murder did not come to him as an ordinary citizen with a civic duty but it came to
him as a confession, and when he is listening to a confession he is no longer just a citizen
but he himself is taking the position of God and surely to him this position is great than
that of an ordinary citizen and gives him great power and as Spiderman’s uncle once said,
“With great power comes great responsibility.”

This movie does not do an in-depth study of how law can bring about social change but
whether this law is even the one that’s accepted by everyone or not. Here we see a man
who does not even want to acknowledge his options from the point of view of a man as
he believes himself to be beyond it and following a different set of rules altogether. Of
course, we do see the conflict that he faces in having to abandon this law but through the
movie he chooses to stick with the law of the God. As a viewer, we believe in the law of
man so this brings about a lot of questions within ourselves which I believe is what the
film was aiming to do in the first place.
Indian Point of View:

Religion is a touchy topic no matter where you address it. The opposition that the film
faced from the Catholic Churches in the west is perhaps the same opposition that a film
like this would have received had it been made on Hinduism or Islam in the East,
especially in India. The concept of religion is further complicated in India due to the tiff
between Hinduism and Islam. How does one deal with crimes committed by the gurus in
the Hindu atmosphere? Should they be treated on the same level as every other man,
equal in the eyes of Lady Justice or do we deal with them using a higher law as we
believe them to be higher beings.

Several news articles come out everyday regarding baba’s committing the heinous act of
rape. How do we bring these women justice when their perpetrators do not believe in the
law that brings them this justice? Add to that their hordes of supporters who rally for
these baba’s innocence stating that they are gods disciples and they could never commit
an act as vile as rape. Add to this the aspect of the rivalry amongst Hindu’s and those
who practice Islam and we have several questions being asked with no concrete answers.

The case of Asifa, wherein a young girl of 7 was repeatedly raped by a Hindu priest
behind a temple saw for the first time a country uniting against the victim and for the
perpetrator. People claimed that the young girl was lying as she was Muslim and the
priest could never have committed an act like this. Merely the fact that she was Muslim
turned her words in a hoax.

What laws really do apply to these men of God? Can they be placed at a different
pedestal than we as ordinary citizens are placed? If a crime is committed by them or in
the case of the movie, a crime is confessed to them, what is the uniform rule? Unless
these questions are answered, the entire validity of the law of men and its applicability
remains hanging and partially in the dark.

In most of the films that we have been shown, the focus has been on the nuances of law
rather than on the nuances in human behavior. We see ordinary men use these nuances to
either free their client or bring about changes in society. We see them go though a change
and want to see that change around them as well. However, the focus often remains on
this one character and the law that changes him and nothing else.
In this film, the storyline is reversed. The entire validity of the law is questioned in the
mind of one man, but it is not only this one man who must face this conflict. Every
character is shown to develop through the film. More focus is placed on the nuances in
their feelings and beliefs than in the law.

Often, we do not personally connect with men like Atticus Finch and Joe Miller for they
show bravery that is rarely found in anyone around us. Their feelings and conflict are not
highlighted as much as their bravery is. However, in this film, we can connect with every
character of the film including Father Logan. While his bravery is perhaps lesser seen in
society, that is not the only thing the film focuses on. It focuses on lost love and knowing
that it would never come back. Living with this truth while wanting to believe anything
else but it. Having to honor other commitments made be it as a priest or as the wife of
another man. Wanting to protect your husband but wanting to speak the truth at the same
time. Wanting to know the truth but not have a man cooperate for reasons that are beyond

We hit brick walls in life everyday and while the wall can hardly ever be broken, the
steps we take after hitting this wall is what defines who we are. Conflicts will always
exist and a movie which highlights it in such a beautiful manner will forever hold a
special place in the heart of humanity.