Life is the only thing that can never be replaced when lost!

The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works
 Saint Augustine

Title
Confessions (2010)
Also known as
Kokuhaku
Genre
Horror, Tragedy
Written by
 Tetsuya Nakashima
Directed by
Starring
 Takako Matsu, Yukito Nishii, Kaoru Fujiwara, Ai Hashimoto,  Yoshino Kimura  
Country of Origin
Japan
Running time
108 minutes 

oh! … brief

Yuko Moriguchi, a junior high school teacher has plotted out her revenge for two students responsible for murdering her four-year old daughter, Manami. After one of the killers confesses his crime, Yuko Moriguchi realizes that the murderers will be protected by the Juvenile Law of 1947, so turning them into the Police is not an option.

The film follows the plot both post and pre confession through a series of first-person storytelling scenes with the students, Shuya Watanabe (the mastermind and Oedipus complex sufferer) and Naoki Shimomura (borderline psychopath), classmate Mizuki Kitahara, and Yuko Moriguchi.

oh! … talks film

This was an exceptionally dark film with an excruciatingly long opening scene.  Based on Kanae Minato’s 2008 best-selling crime novel, Kokuhaku, the film adaptation is as true to the novel as is possible, save the reshuffling of the order of the confessions. Basically speaking, Confessions is a viciously dark-witted, cold-blooded psychological thriller.

Now I’m not a fan of revenge-themed anything, but this piece of work was so gloriously and diabolically elegant in its delivery, I couldn’t help but be impressed. The revenge is far more intellectual and emotional that it’s almost delicious. If ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’, then Confessions served up one of the coldest dishes I’ve come across in a long time. While exploring the human propensity to target the weak, the film also examines human psyche, sadism, the value of life, the dismal state of the education system, and the ever-lingering bias towards AIDS and its victims.

Doubling as both screenplay writer and director, acclaimed Tetsuya Nakashima created a film that deals with its disturbing subject matter in a remarkable fashion using art-house pictorial styling and unrestrained jocularity.

Reminiscent of one of his previous works, Beautiful Sunday (1998), Tetsuya Nakashima’s direction and handling, is what makes Confessions stand out. He provides in equal measure characters that are so drastically flawed yet utterly human mired in a situation that is entirely believable, yet inconceivable and a social commentary that society must address.  As society has advanced and our behaviours and propensities have grown to include increased horrific violence, this has spilt over creating younger offenders more capable of doing heinous acts based on illogical reasoning, as is the case in this film. Tetsuya Nakashima describes these acts and their reasoning through his visual narrative, and it is quite exquisitely executed.

I did find the opening scene drawn out and dull initially, but came to understand why this was the way the film opened later, when more of the flashbacks were shown and the backstories to each of the characters were narrated. These carefully crafted flashbacks allow us a glimpse of the lives and emotions of the characters and establish the path their lives will take and the choices they will make. It’s insightful and while this approach doesn’t appeal to everyone, it did appeal to me.

The cold colour of the afternoon sky is mirrored in the uniforms the students wear and their schooling environment –  the monochromatic grey, black and off-white, which creates the perfect harsh composition for Tetsuya Nakashima’s cinematography and highlights the bleak moralistic panorama.  The cameramen use exaggerated slow motion to capture some of the most brutal actions and expressions of the characters which is really Tetsuya Nakashima’s preferred cinematic style. Surprisingly, he kept his CGI work to a bare minimum, using it mostly to create atmosphere, particularly with those cloudy skies.

What I enjoyed the most is the non-judgmental way that Confessions is delivered. There is no finger-pointing per se. I didn’t feel the need at any point to empathize with Yuko Moriguchi and I felt no sympathy for the two murderers or their family. It was like sitting back and watching the story unfold in front of my eyes but not being emotionally invested in it, just a silent observer. It was kind of uncanny, but I think this is a testament to how well the screenplay was written and then captured visually.  But Tetsuya Nakashima did break some genre ‘rules’. He identified the murderers early on immediately eliminating the ‘whodunit’ tension. Yuko Moriguchi is so cool, calm and collected that she appears to be dead to all emotions and this gives pause to what is driving her revenge. Tetsuya Nakashima’s use of saturated colouring, his refined composition and elegant stylistic choices create an almost anaesthetized feeling, very unusual for revenge-themed drama and film.

For his cast, Tetsuya Nakashima chose Takako Matsu as his leading lady, in fact, I believe he stated that if she would not play the lead part then he would abandon the whole project. She was joined by a cast of mostly teenage actors and actresses. The success of this film lies not only in the visual narration but also the skilled performance was given by the cast.

Takako Matsu delivered an exceptional performance with her interpretation of her character, Yuko Moriguchi. Consistently, she used a hollow voice to deliver her lines and remained an austere, cool, calculating character. Nobody can have imagined how calculating she would be front the demure figure she presents in the first 5 minutes of her opening scene. The performance didn’t inspire me to have empathy for her character, though I sensed her loss and desperation.

Yukito Nishii took on the role of Student A, Shuya Watanabe, the teenage boy suffering from Oedipus Complex and the sociopathic mastermind behind the murder of Yuko Moriguchi’s daughter. I think Yukito Nishii did a fine job with his performance. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to portray a character’s manipulating and calculating idiosyncrasies, but he did a really good job and had me entirely convinced. His performance, however, didn’t move me to feel sorry for his backstory and what pushed him over the edge. I had no sympathy for his character whatsoever.

Kaoru Fujiwara played Student B, Naoki Shimomura and did a decent job with his performance. Initially, we are led to believe that he is the ‘sheep’ who followed a leader, but the truth behind the murder reveals him to be as much a sociopath as Shuya Watanabe.

oh! … sidekicks

Ai Hashimoto played Mizuki Kitahara, another student who appears to play both sides, siding with Yuko Moriguchi and with Shuya Watanabe. I was never certain exactly why she was included. She did deliver a strong performance, however, certainly one worth mentioning.

oh! … that’s a wrap

This film will not appeal to everyone. Having written that however

  • it is visually and aesthetically phenomenal considering the dark plot
  • it is both art-house but also very film-noire at the same time
  • the performances are strong,
  • the narrative is solid
  • the social commentary is compelling while remaining behind the scenes

Overall, I appreciated this film far more than I expected to. It is one I would highly recommend, but be forewarned, there is no release, no salvation, no hope, only the darkest black hole because in this case, the grief will remain beyond the act of vengeance.

oh! … tidbits

The film was both a commercial and critical success. It was awarded Best Picture at the 34th Japan Academy Prize and 53rd Blue Ribbon Awards and was shortlisted at the 83rd Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.

oh! … soundtrack

 

oh! … gallery

oh! … trailers

 

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