A harrowing true story from the era of Soviet bloc show trials by the master of the political thriller, Oscar winning director Costa-Gavras.
Yves Montand gives an heartrending performance as a government minister, a war veteran and a loyal party man, who finds himself suddenly under surveillance and then under arrest in 1950s communist Czechoslovakia. Interrogated and tortured he has no idea what his offence is but he has to confess anyway implicating himself while his wife (Simone Signoret), struggling with the possibility that her husband is a traitor, attempts to skirt politics in order to secure his safe return. Clinging to the truth as long as possible during this lengthy ordeal he slowly comes to realise that he is a performer groomed for public appearance by the Party and that the world will be watching the show.
Based on a true story and a cult book by Artur London, who escaped the death penalty in a 1951-52 political show trial, this is an unflinching political thriller complete with masterfully executed tension that resonates beyond one political system and particular historical circumstance and was deservedly nominated for the 1970 Golden Globe Best Foreign Film award.
Costa-Gavras, France/Italy 1970, 138 mins
Cast: Yves Montand, Simogne Signoret, Gabriele Ferzetti, Michel Vitold
“Confession is the highest form of self-criticism.” – Party official in “The Confession”
Followed by a discussion with Petr Blažek (Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes) and Ivan Margolius, son of Rudolf Margolius who was sentenced to death in 1952 trial. Chaired by Dina Iordanova.
Ivan Margolius, son of Rudolf Margolius who was sentenced to death during the political trials in 1952, is an author whose work includes memoirs and a number of books and articles on art, architecture, engineering, design and automobile history. He was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia and studied architecture both there and in London following his arrival in the UK in 1966. He has worked for Foster and Partners, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and Yorke Rosenberg Mardall.
Historian Petr Blažek specialises in 20th century Czechoslovak history, focussing on opposition and resistance to the Communist régime and Polish-Czech-Slovak relations during the 20th century. He studied at Charles University’s Czech History Department and since 2010 has been a researcher at The Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Prague. His recent project focuses on historical research into the history of the Society for a Merrier Present, one of the opposition initiatives in Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s.
Dina Iordanova is a Professor of Film Studies at the University of St Andrews and an international authority on transnational cinema, global film industries, and film festivals, as well as on Eastern European and Balkan cinema. Originally from Bulgaria, and having worked in Canada, the US and England, her background is in philosophy and aesthetics. She is the founder of the Centre for Film Studies at the University of St Andrews and the publishing house St Andrews Film Studies. Currently she is working on Change Management, her monograph on representations of post-communism in cinema, and editing the forthcoming Film Festivals and the Middle East and a volume on Film Festivals in Italy.