Father Michael Logan (Clift) is a priest, who, late one night, observes someone entering the church. He quickly discovers that it is church handyman, Otto Keller, a German refugee who, along with his wife Alma, has been at the church for about six months. Otto is distraught and tells Father Logan that he needs to confess to him, and once Father Logan settles into the confessional, Otto reveals that he had killed a man (Mr. Villett) that night. He had only intended to rob Villett, but when he was discovered and threatened with police involvement, he killed him.
After confessing to Father Logan, Otto tells his wife what he has done, but when she asks him to go to the police, he refuses. He informs her that no one will ever find out about his involvement because Father Logan is bound by his priestly oath to keep to himself anything said to him in the confessional. So, Otto acts like all is well and even goes to Mr. Villett's house the next morning to tend his garden, as was his usual habit for that day, thus "discovering" the body and notifying the police.
Later that morning, Father Logan visits Mr. Villett's house, and after a few minutes of conversation with Inspector Larreau (Karl Malden), he begins conversing outside with a woman, with whom it would appear he has some sort of relationship. When the woman, Ruth (Anne Baxter), learns of Villett's death, she is relieved and says to Michael, "We're free." Since Ruth and Father Logan both claim to have had an appointment with Mr. Villett that morning, but since neither of them will reveal anything about said appointment, the inspector's radar is on alert. And when two young girls claim to have seen a man wearing a priest's cloak leaving Mr. Villett's house the night before, Inspector Larreau is even more suspicious of Father Logan. Add to that, Logan's alibi doesn't check out.
When Otto tells everyone at the rectory that he discovered Mr. Villett's body, Father Logan remains silent. He will not betray his priestly oath...and Otto knows that. Yet Otto will not confess to the police. He says that since he confessed to the Father, God has forgiven him, and he need do nothing further. And he continues on that path even after Father Logan has been arrested and is sent to trial.
For Father Logan to exonerate himself, he will have to either betray his priestly vows...or remove himself from the priesthood. Will he do either of those things? Will he defend himsef? And what about his relationship with Ruth? Why are they "free" now that Mr. Villett has been murdered? Well, to discover the answer to those questions, you will simply have to watch this movie. I Confess is out on DVD and should be readily available and quite easy to track down. Additionally, it is on the TCM schedule for June 27th, so you could always catch it there.
Just as an aside, this movie actually gets me misty-eyed in the final minutes. Not often that happens in a Hitchcock film, I know, but this one really touches me. Anyhow, happy viewing!!