This dramatic film intrigued me for the two main actors: Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman, to whom I dedicated an article on the occasion of his death. Secondly, the dry and potentially “psychiatric” title, that is, “Doubt”.
The story in a nutshell. The headmistress of a religious school watches over everything, convinced of the usefulness of surveillance, with the spirit of avoiding trouble in the school, but also of protecting the pupils. For this reason, she invites one of her subjects to report any anomalies. In fact, this happens, because it seems that a priest has ambiguous conduct towards a pupil, towards whom he also shows himself publicly loving and protective. This “suspicion” is triggered by a sort of unofficial investigation, requests for clarification and finally a conflict between the director and the priest.
At the end of the day (NB be careful because what follows is a so-called spoiler, that is, it tells how the film ends, so if you don’t want to know, read it after you’ve seen it) …. I said, in the end the director pretends to have some confidential information of previous pedophile conduct, to which the priest reacts by resigning from office.
The film is psychiatrically well built on the concept of doubt and decision. To make decisions you must first dispel doubts
According to the logical principle yes, possibly and up to the highest possible level. According to the rule that obsessions teach us, no. Beyond a certain limit, which is not even so extreme, it is decided on the basis of a series of elements, which combine data, experience, impressions, priorities. The director, to the end, will never be “with certainty” what the truth is. You will try to hint, to provoke, to corner, to question, but nothing … it will not go beyond the initial suspicion. What to do then
How to decide without having in hand an element proving the suspicion
Yet he decides, and he also decides with confidence. He entrusts the decision to a test, to a trick: he makes it clear to the alleged culprit that he has evidence of other pedophile behaviors, it is understood that he will take action unless the priest does it himself to stop it. But even in this case, it is so obvious that if the priest resigns, he does it because he is guilty
And if the bogus threat worked, this means that really in his past there are skeletons in the closet
. these skeletons are precisely
what the director thinks, or it could be something else, which in any case makes him blackmailable
Or maybe again, it may be that the priest, innocent, was wounded in pride, and could not tolerate being accused or suspected of infamous things. And as for the threat of revealing some past secrets, he might have feared false accusations about the past as well, given the hostility of the director.
In short, everything except a device that can give a “logical” certainty. But the director chooses to use that method, intuitive, and she decisively applies it.
The psychiatric aspect of the film and the contrast between the principle of “having to know” and the principle of “having to act”. In theory one could think, even being in a religious context, that there is a “rule” that allows you to know well before deciding. The thing that “illuminates” could be the certainty of a principle, which when applied then provides the necessary serenity to act. Instead it is not so, as it is not in reality. The opposite if anything. The rule seems to be that of militancy, that is, of having to act so often, having to decide so often on everything, that the ability to doubt everything, as a side effect, also matures as a consequence. We doubt everything when we have seen everything. Sometimes, it would be tempting to use doubt to decide, but then you end up twisting around doubt. The real useful “doubt” is actually what you do not see, which operates automatically to provide the resolution at the output. What remains will remain even after, once the decision has been made. It does not matter if you have had proof of the goodness of the decision, it will come back out even in that case.
In the film, moments of doubt and “unspoken” alternate with a beginning and an end that are instead dry decisions. In the scene where the new teacher communicates, without saying it openly at the beginning, that a pupil is the object of unorthodox attention on the part of the priest, the transition from doubt to certainty is abrupt. Two words are enough for the director to “know”, with non-logical operational certainty, that what the other is saying to her is a clear-cut accusation of pedophilia. Another could have covered up the matter, he could have not picked up the report, he could have (rightly) thought it was a little too little. You could then, as the director does, ask those directly involved … But, even in doing so, one cannot hope for the truth if this should come as a confession. Even the victims, at times, they fail to confirm the allegations. In fact, the director summons the boy’s mother, as if to make her understand that, if she knew something more, she was only waiting to intervene in the boy’s defense. Surprisingly, even her mother has a “doubt”: indeed, we doubt that she too has a doubt, because she does not show herself completely surprised by the suspicion about the pedophile priest. But what he does, even in this case, is a choice when faced with a doubt: yes, it may be that the son has had relations with the priest, but the son perhaps has homosexual tendencies, something that everyone in the family has “the doubt ”, And therefore this would mean two things: a small scandal, and having to change schools. A family of poor conditions cannot afford such a breakdown, and it is not said – this is the
These two modalities, the doubt and the decision, are in fact two different moments. One, circular (doubt), which can add elements, complicate, catch exceptions and specifics, but can never lead to a decision. All decisions end up being possible, and in this case equivalent. Indeed, doubt requires having certainty. It creates it as a need, whereas it was not originally there. The proof that there is no certainty and that the organism is programmed to move forward in uncertainty. To go forward not by groping, in an awkward and awkward way, but with an “operational certainty”, that is to know what to do. You can be in doubt in an unresolved way, and at the same time make decisions. Indeed, it is necessarily so, so the doubt becomes only the level of logic I intend to use,
Not even when one has made the decision is the doubt resolved. Because it has nothing to do with it, the decision does not derive from its dissolution. Indeed, it is highly probable that once an important step has been taken, doubt will immediately knock back, as if for a posthumous check.
Even the director, at the end of the story, will be gripped by doubt. She’d do what she did, and she’s clearly convinced she got it right. But he cannot free himself from doubt. On the other hand, one could say, if one did not continually doubt he would not even be able to “grasp” the analogies. It is therefore the doubt about the past that often helps to make decisions about the future.
Doubt, a word that the protagonist utters with desperation, is almost a burden to carry for having to decide. It is not an evil doubt, which blocks the action. It is not a beneficial doubt, which quickly directs it towards the exit channel. It is simply a vital doubt. Our friction with uncertainty, which stings in moments of undertow.

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