24 user 28 critic

Absolution (1978)

At a Catholic public school, Benjamin "Benjie" Stanfield (Dominic Guard) is tired of being the teacher's pet and decides to play a practical joke on his form master Father Goddard (Richard ... See full summary »


Anthony Page


Anthony Shaffer (screenplay)




Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Burton ... Father Goddard
Dominic Guard ... Benjie
David Bradley ... Arthur (as Dai Bradley)
Billy Connolly ... 'Blakey' / Blakey
Andrew Keir ... Headmaster
Willoughby Gray ... Brigadier Walsh
Preston Lockwood Preston Lockwood ... Father Hibbert
James Ottaway ... Father Matthews
Brook Williams Brook Williams ... Father Clarence
Jon Plowman Jon Plowman ... Father Piers
Robin Soans ... Father Henryson
Trevor Martin Trevor Martin ... Mr. Gladstone
Sharon Duce Sharon Duce ... Louella
Brian Glover ... First Policeman
Dan Meaden Dan Meaden ... Second Policeman


At a Catholic public school, Benjamin "Benjie" Stanfield (Dominic Guard) is tired of being the teacher's pet and decides to play a practical joke on his form master Father Goddard (Richard Burton). In confession, Stanfield tells Goddard that he has accidentally murdered his friend Blakey (Sir Billy Connolly) and buried him in the forest. When Goddard investigates the matter, he finds a buried scarecrow. Goddard is outraged, but, due to the seal of confession, he knows he cannot expel Stanfield. Shortly after, Stanfield once again enters the confession booth, telling Goddard that what before was a practical joke, he has now made happen. In disbelief, Goddard once again goes to the forest to investigate the matter. This time, he discovers Blakey's dead body. The plot soon thickens as Stanfield's fellow student Arthur Dyson (David Bradley) mysteriously disappears.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Thou Shalt Not Kill See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


In his 2018 memoirs, Jon Plowman wrote that Richard Burton hated learning his lines. He "liked playing Catholic Priests because when he is in the confessional he can have all the pages of the script stuck to the wall behind the camera." See more »


In the tennis match, a close shot of Benjie shows him serving whilst standing in the right service court (which would be illegal) but the long shot shows him serving from the baseline (legal). The score is 30-all, so he should be serving from the right side of the baseline, but is shown serving from the left side. See more »


Benjie: What I told you before as a joke, I made happen. I killed him.
Father Goddard: I do not believe you!
Benjie: You must Father. What would be the point of playing the same joke twice?
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Swanee River
Written by Stephen Foster
Sung by one of the policemen at Blakey's camp
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User Reviews

Exciting thriller!
20 July 2017 | by HotToastyRagSee all my reviews

Richard Burton plays a priest in Absolution. I know, his real-life persona was very un-priest-like, but that's why it's called acting! I mean, Frank Sinatra played a very convincing priest in The Miracle of the Bells, and he was just as un-saintly as Richard Burton in real life. Anyway, Burton gives a great performance as a man of the cloth. He's conflicted and pained, and when he even hears about a sin, you can see him struggling not to take it as a personal insult.

He's a teacher and mentor in a boys' Catholic school, and during one of his lessons, the boys ask about the rules during confession. If someone confesses to a crime, will the priest turn him into the police? Burton answers, almost directly into the camera for the audience's benefit, that the priest is bound to silence and can't call the police if he's told of a crime. Then, surprise! One of his students confesses a murder.

Granted, if this movie had been made today, it would be a lot more gruesome, and probably have a few more twists and turns. But it was made in 1978, and so if you watch it, keep that in mind. There are a couple of violent scenes, but nothing overly graphic. And I thought it was thrilling, with enough twists and turns to keep me on the edge of my seat. It's a lot of fun to watch a manipulative, snot-nosed student take Burton to the brink of insanity!

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

1 July 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Absolution See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Bulldog See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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