The Penitent

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The Penitent

The Penitent

The Penitent

original title:

The Penitent

directed by:


David Mamet, from his play with the same title


costume design:





film run:




release date:


festivals & awards:

New York. A psychiatrist sees his career and private life go off the rails after he refuses to testify on behalf of a former violent and unstable patient who has caused the death of a number of people. The fact that the young patient is a member of the LGBT community, the doctor’s Jewish faith, the press’s hunger for news and the severe judgment of the law, aggravated by a printing error made by a newspaper editor, seem to be the factors that trigger an explosive chain reaction.
The hounding in the media and the ferocity of the judicial system are added to the moral dilemma faced by the psychiatrist, who will take refuge behind the Hippocratic Oath in order to defend himself against the interrogations, pressure and betrayals on the part of all those seeking the truth. So who is the fiend? The young man? The doctor? The press? Justice? Can anyone claim to be innocent?

I loved the theatrical version of this text as much as I love the film version that follows the scheme of the thriller. The screenplay, written by a genius like David Mamet, is based on a true story, the Tarasoff case. The protagonist of our story is a psychoanalyst whose life has been ruined—along with that of many university professors, teachers and managers—by the ferocity of two other protagonists, which are, in the film and in life, the intrusive judicial system and the manipulated media.
When someone’s private life comes into collision with the mechanism of a system of communication that is not interested in objective presentation of the news, but in defamation, that is to say in visual and intuitive provocation, bent on making judgments rather than informing, a conflict arises. And if a judicial system identifies a victim who is not one of the real victims and a culprit who is not the real culprit, then it turns into true tragedy. But why does this happen? According to Mamet: “Because human nature is cruel.”