The Comforter

A highly ascetic, probing re-creation by Italian filmmaker Paolo Benvenuti (1992) of a historical incident that occurred in Rome in 1736. Arrested for burglary, two Jewish men are tortured until they confess, and then are condemned by the papal court to death by hanging. But the church feels obliged to convert them before carrying out its sentence, and the Confortorio, an ecclesiastic brotherhood in charge of performing the last rites, unsuccessfully devotes an entire night to this end. Based on extensive historical research by Simona Foa, this picture occasionally suggests some of the efforts of Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet, at least in its severity and concentrationa specifically European seriousness in unpacking the historical past. With Emidio Simini and Franco Pistoni. (JR)

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