Monday, 5 March 2012


Confessions is a Japanese psychological thriller about a teacher who seeks revenge after two of her pupils kill her young daughter. The film is told mostly through a series of written confessions in the shape of diary entries, letters and blogs, each being narrated by the character doing the writing. These intertwine and converge to complete a thrilling and uneasy film, full of twists and suspense.

The film opens with an impressive thirty minute monologue delivered by Takako Matsu who plays the principle character and teacher of a class of unruly thirteen year olds. The monologue, set in a classroom, is interspersed with flashbacks to her daughter’s death as she announces calmly to the class that her daughter has been killed by two of their number. She then goes on to let the class in on whom the culprits are and explain that she has laced the milk that they just drank with the HIV virus. The whole scene is performed magnificently by Matsu who delivers the monologue in an ominous yet calm and distant monotone. After this, the teacher warns the class that if anyone tells their parents then she will infect them too, and leaves the school for good. The rest of the film follows the lives of the two murderous school children over the next few months of their lives as they and their class deal with what has happened.

The film features some of the cornerstones of Asian cinematic themes. The story is one of vengeance which features prominently in the likes of Takashi Miike’s harrowing Audition and Park-Chan wook’s superb Oldboy, not to mention Quentin Tarantino’s Japanese inspired Kill Bill. Another theme of the film is juvenile delinquency, something that features significantly in Japanese horror due to Japanese children’s world renowned respect for their elders and good behaviour. This fear of aberrant children has been used to greatest effect in Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale but is taken to new heights in Confessions. Without giving too much away, some of the younger characters in the film are beastly and could give We Need to Talk About Kevin’s title character a run for his money. Other themes include loneliness and abandonment and as we learn more about the back story we begin to understand more about the motives for each of the central characters. This is never straight forward however and is released in a series of bluffs and counter bluffs which unbalance the audience.

I was slightly put off by the over-stylised directing, art direction and cinematography and was sometimes left wishing that Tetsuya Nakashima would just let the film play out without the slow motion, oddly placed shots of inanimate objects and cut scenes of clouds as the story is strong enough and powerful enough not to need it. I get the metaphor of the gathering storm but the film reminded me far too much of Zach Snyder and that’s never a good thing. I also found the choice of music slightly odd. It was a mixture of western pop songs and classical music interspersed with white noise from a guitar. Sometimes the white noise added to the tension but the story created enough tension without it while I thought the western pop music was misplaced.

The acting from the main cast was excellent. Takako Matsu conveys the heartbreak at losing her daughter while also she also maintains a creepy and calculating air to her. The three main child actors are also fantastic and deserve special mention. All three perform excellently and don’t have easy roles to play. It is rare to see acting of this standard from such a young cast. The rest of the cast are a bit hit and miss but don’t feature too much anyway.

The film’s suspense and mystery build to a horrifying yet strangely satisfying end in the third act and it completes a wonderfully thrilling and well told film that features some astonishing acting and a compelling and gripping story.


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