The Confession, Tanel Toom’s eerie but exhilarating tale of adolescence heavily influenced by religious ideals is one that leaves the viewer with an ominous feeling that causes them to question the films motives long after it is over.
The beautiful cinematography sets the mood for the film. A serene landscape shot of a sunrise over a cornfield with a simple silhouette of a scarecrow on a cross seems peaceful yet foreshadows the shuddersome plot that has yet to unfold.
The film continues in a Catholic school classroom in a small town in England. The story follows Sam, an innocent nine year old boy whose biggest anxiety is not having a sin to reveal to the priest at his first communion. Sams best friend Jacob convinces him not to fear for together they will execute a sinful act so he can properly confess.
They decide to steal the scarecrow from Sam’s father’s cornfield and it is then that the film quickly escalates from a light hearted story about a boy’s first communion to one of horror and tragedy. “It was an accident.” Jacob tries to convince Sam, but Sams conscious is the driving force for the rest of the film.
Tanel Toom has another widely acclaimed short film called The Second Coming (2008) about a soldier who has a hard time coping with his brother’s death. Toom has a knack for incorporating death and religion into his cinematic works.
There is a way that Toom tugs on the viewer’s heartstrings by reminding the viewer that these are just nine year old boys with seemingly innocent intentions. The scenes of them riding their bikes to school and playing in their secret spot in the woods serves as an innuendo of this. Toom taps into the human condition and exploits the significance that is placed upon the concept of religion. The balance between youth and sin makes it hard for the audience to form a solid opinion on the matters at hand, which seem to be religions negative impacts on its followers.
But it is also noteworthy to say that the child actors, Lewis Howlett who plays Sam and Joe Eals who plays Jacob, are who bring the driving emotions to the film. The intensity they bring to their roles are what rub off on the audience and leave them with shivers. Sam’s ultimate dilemma is not simple to find an answer for. Howlett really depicts the struggle he faces in where he has to place his faith. Is it within God, his best friend, or himself?
It is all this and more that make it clear as to why The Confession has earned its Oscar nomination for best live action short film. When showing the shorts at the IFC Theater in New York City, the Academy chose The Confession as the first film to appear within the sequence and sets off the theme of humans coping in their darkest hour. Although, as Bernardo Villela writes from The Movie Rat “It is so shockingly rare to see a short film that is so layered and plays on so many levels as this one does.”