The Confirmation: Review

Konfirmanden (The Confirmation)

By Fergus Henderson. In the poignant short film Konfirmanden (The Confirmation), writer-director Marie-Louise Damgaard uses the eponymous Danish Christian tradition of symbolically entering adulthood to explore powerful ideas of gender, tradition, and family.

The child at the centre of the story is Matthias (Xean Peake), a transgender boy at the start of his transition, still being deadnamed by his immediate family. However, from the film’s opening close-up of his mum Susanne (Ellen Hissingø) applying lipstick, we can tell that this story is told from her perspective. 

Lest this sound like the wrong approach, one that misses the real narrative, Damgaard uses Susanne’s point of view during this charged event to explore dense ideas of parenthood, and how a parent can project their own emotions onto their children.

The camera is always tight on Susanne’s face, whereas Matthias is seen from a distance. That Matthias is seen from Susanne’s distant perspective allows us to see Susanne’s fear for her son, whilst keeping us and her at a remove from what he is actually thinking and feeling. 

By the time everyone is gathered under a gazebo for drinks and toasts, she is ready to crack. After several glasses of wine and some tellingly hostile interactions with her own mother that suggest an already tense relationship, Susanne takes it upon herself to give a speech about the difficulty of Matthias’ transition. Her speech finally makes clear that her parental defensiveness is mixing uneasily with her discomfort with Matthias’ transition.

Konfirmanden (The Confirmation)
Konfirmanden (The Confirmation)

And yet, as dense as this short already is, Damgaard is aware fundamentally that what is most important in all of this is the voice of the marginalised, young Matthias, who has had his day taken over by his own mother. The short wisely leaves us with forgiveness and resolution, but only after Susanne has realised her fault.

The Confirmation reminds the viewer to be mindful and ethical as advocates and allies, and to let people tell their own stories. Finally, the film offers a gentle reminder that this story, at its heart, is a tender and complicated moment in the lives of a parent and a child. It is a remarkably insightful, well observed film that packs a book’s worth of ideas into its 18 minute runtime. 

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