A Confession

A world-class water torturer takes revenge on a religious zealot who kills his own grandma in tyro helmer Park Soo-min's intermittently intriguing critique of belief, "A Confession."

With: Gwon Hyuk-poong, Lee Joo-seung, Lee Dae-yun, Lee Haw-si.

A world-class water torturer takes revenge on a religious zealot who kills his own grandma in tyro helmer Park Soo-min’s intermittently intriguing critique of belief, “A Confession.” Some may bristle at what appears to be Park’s pointed denial of God, while others will go with the director’s claim that it’s blind devotion he’s slapping down. Either way, he delivers a bold, very Korean take, replete with torture scenes, that positions absolute faith as either delusion or a shield for psychosis. Though unlikely to generate genuflections, “Confession” may see mild fest action.

Expressionless former detective Park Duk-joon (Gwon Hyuk-poong) longs to receive an answer to his prayers, hoping the Holy Spirit might make sense of his son’s death and wash away the stain of years spent sadistically interrogating suspects. Despite a certain discomfort with his past (guilt is overstating it), he’s now working as a freelance torturer for a local gangster. After frequent attempts to get him to church, Mrs. Lee (Lee Haw-si) finally succeeds, but only because he notices his former boss Lim Gwang-han (Lee Dae-yun), the infamous “torture cop,” is Sunday’s inspirational speaker.

Lim claims to have found religion in prison and now is “clean in God’s eyes,” though in an unwelcome conversation with Park, he says he feels no guilt for the things they did. Park comes away even more perplexed, and hopes Mrs. Lee may make things clearer. But when he finds her strangled body in the shower and realizes her grandson Yoon Kyung-ho (Lee Joo-seung) is the culprit, he abducts the fanatically religious teen, whose belief that he was God’s instrument makes Park even less certain about divine will.

Leave it to a Korean filmmaker to wrap a story about a sadist who gets no pleasure from his job around a disquisition on God’s invisibility. Also factored in is a pointed criticism of the country’s historical amnesia, which all too often blithely brushes away the period in the ’80s when state torture was considered acceptable. Park gradually reveals his characters’ unspeakable deeds in darkly monochrome flashbacks, unflinchingly lensing a world where faith might help get some through immediate pain but acts as an ineffective salve against lasting torment. The helmer offers no easy answers, just open questions.

Thesping is strong all around, from Gwon’s deadened core where an ember continues to glow, to young Lee Joo-seung’s frighteningly confident psychopath and Lee Haw-si’s yearning warmth. An overly obvious fantasy sequence feels out of place, but otherwise, pacing is tight and the tension doesn’t let up.

A Confession

South Korea

Production: A CJ Entertainment release of a Korean Academy of Film Arts presentation of a Kafa Films production. (International sales: CJ Entertainment, Seoul.) Produced by Han Seung-sang. Executive producer, Kim Seung-joon. Directed, written by Park Soo-min.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Kim Bo-ram; editor, Kim Chang-joo; music, Lee Jeong-hyun; production designer, Gwon Sun-joo; costume designer, Lim Chan-young; sound, No Chun-gil, Seong Yun-yong, Lee In-gyu. Reviewed at Turin Film Festival (competing), Nov. 27, 2011. Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Gwon Hyuk-poong, Lee Joo-seung, Lee Dae-yun, Lee Haw-si.

More Film

  • Face to Face with German Films

    Face to Face with German Films Unveils the Six ‘Faces’ of 2019 (EXCLUSIVE)

    Teutonic promotional organization German Films has announced that its annual initiative supporting German filmmaking internationally, Face to Face With German Films, will focus on actors and actresses as the campaign enters its fourth year. Six of Germany’s leading thesps – Maria Dragus, Christian Friedel, Luise Heyer, Jonas Nay, Jördis Triebel and Fahri Yardim – will [...]

  • (L to R) VIGGO MORTENSEN and

    'Green Book' Lands Post-Oscars Theatrical Release in China

    Fresh off Monday’s news that it had picked up five Academy Award nominations, best picture favorite “Green Book” is set for more good luck. The film will hit Chinese theaters on March 1, the first weekend after the Oscars, which fall on Feb 24, Alibaba Pictures announced on its official social media account. The film [...]

  • Fan Bingbing

    Chinese Celebrities Pay $1.7 Billion in Back Taxes Following Fan Bingbing Scandal

    Chinese film and TV stars have paid some $1.7 billion (RMB11.7 billion) of additional taxes, following the mid-2018 scandal surrounding actress Fan Bingbing. The figure was announced Tuesday by China’s State Tax Administration. Chinese authorities launched a probe into the taxation affairs of the entertainment sector in October. Companies and individuals were asked to examine [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Film News Roundup: AMC, Regal to Leave 'Roma' Out of Best Picture Showcases

    In today’s film news roundup, “Roma” will not be in the best picture showcases at AMC and Regal, “Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church” gets a release and SAG-AFTRA’s David White has a new appointment. ‘ROMA’ SPURNED More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful 'Jazz & Piano' TV Review: 'Russian Doll' [...]

  • First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban

    First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban-Inspired After-Party (EXCLUSIVE)

    Celebrities at this year’s SAG Awards won’t have to go far for some tropical fun. Sunday’s annual post-show gala, hosted by People magazine for the 23rd year, is set to feature a Cuban-themed party space adjacent to the Shrine Auditorium. More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful 'Jazz & [...]

  • Paul DavidsonVariety Big Data Summit Presented

    Listen: The Orchard's Paul Davidson on Surviving Sundance Bidding Wars

    Hollywood heads to Park City, Utah this week in the hopes of finding the next big Sundance Film Festival breakout. Paul Davidson, executive vice president of film and television at The Orchard, plans to be in the thick of it. In today’s edition of Variety‘s “Strictly Business” podcast, Davidson opens up about The Orchard’s strategy [...]

  • Young Tony Soprano in 'Sopranos' Movie:

    James Gandolfini's Son Michael Gandolfini Cast as Tony Soprano in 'Sopranos' Movie

    Michael Gandolfini, son of the late James Gandolfini, will play the young Tony Soprano in “The Many Saints of Newark,” the  prequel movie to the television series “The Sopranos.” “It’s a profound honor to continue my dad’s legacy while stepping into the shoes of a young Tony Soprano,” Gandolfini said. “I’m thrilled that I am [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content