Release date: 25th April 2011
Running time: 106 mins
Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
Starring: Takako Matsu, Masaki Okada, Yoshino Kimura
Studio: Third Window Films
Adapted from the award winning debut novel by Kanae Minato, still high on the sugar-coated ripples of critical acclaim with his previous features Kamikaze Girls and Memories Of Matsuko, genre-busting auteur Tetsuya Nakashima returns like a scalded cat with Confessions. Gone are his trademark candy-coloured worlds, replaced by a sinister universe contaminated by disease, bullying and murder. Will Nakashima’s delicious new direction hit the sweet spot once again, or will it leave the audience with sweet Fanny Adams?
Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) is a middle-school teacher whose 4-year-old daughter is found dead in the school’s swimming pool. Convinced that two of her students were responsible for her daughter's murder she returns to her classroom and begins a final lesson the students will never forget.
Referring to the killers as Student A and Student B, Yuko’s ramblings are at first treated as tommyrot by the children half listening to her inane drivel. Then she reveals that two of the cartons of milk they had been drinking prior to her arrival have been laced with the HIV infected blood of her dead child’s father.
Confessions spill quicker than the milk, as each suspect reveals motives, allies, and a disturbing lack of sympathy. Will Yuko be satisfied with their acceptance of blame, knowing only too well that they aren’t old enough to be truly punished for their actions, or will she decide to end her teaching career by going out with a bang?
He said: All films should be this pretty. Exploring the dark side of adolescence with wit and delicacy, Confessions creates a disturbingly bleak atmosphere that more than compensates for a sparse plot.
She said: Based on the award-winning novel by Minato Kanae, Confessions (a.k.a. Kokuhaku) is a beautiful, tragic and deeply affecting drama about a teacher's terrifying plan to avenge her daughter's murder.
He said: A film more about mood than substance, ordinary teen irritants are blended with the extreme so seamlessly here it’s frightening, as we see when, early on, Student A (a chilling turn by Yukito Nishii as Shuya) reveals his unrivalled genius by creating contraptions to torture cats and dogs and another electrifying invention to stop purse snatchers.
She said: Confessions takes us on a troublesome journey into the minds of Japanese adolescence. Witnessing events from various points of view - the teachers, the students and the parents - each character has their own tale to tell. Told mostly through voice-over, Confessions builds towards a stunning climax, highlighting the tragic realisation of innocence lost.
He said: It’s certainly a haunting tale that will linger long in the memory, helped by a dry sense of humour running all the way through it (the students rendition of KC Band’s ‘That’s The Way I Like It’ is absolutely brilliant), with gruesomeness and giggles combining perfectly, culminating in a genuinely explosive denouement.
She said: Nakashima’s screenplay shifts from character to character, presenting an alternative angle at every turn. The opening act, a thirty-minute indictment if you will, is nothing short of breathtaking. Setting the scene, the uncompromising teacher unveils her vengeful plan to an unruly classroom. It’s remarkably unsettling, and Nakashima keeps the mood grounded in bleakness with images of raindrops, thunderous storm clouds and copious shades of grey.
He said: Takako Matsu’s performance as the scarred teacher is deftly restrained: her intense opening monologue is so gripping you’ll question how thirty minutes have zipped by. But Nakashima masters such a lengthy confession with ease, cutting to cold and harsh visual flashbacks, classroom mayhem and a self-contained story so beautiful it’s almost a disappointment when the new term begins.
She said: Confessions is a tough pill to swallow at times, drowning in corrupted characters and tragic circumstance, but it’s never less than compulsive. Dreamlike sensibilities combine with a haunting score to provide a movie going experience that remains utterly intoxicating throughout.
He said: Clearly helped by an artist who has already mastered the form, Nakashima soaks Kanae Minato’s script in such lush imagery you’ll gladly drown in its dreamy slo-mo sequences (at its stunning best in the pouring rain), entwined with wide-eyed acts of violence that will make the journey uncomfortable but compelling.
She said: Confessions provides us with the most breathtaking scene of the year, of quite possibly the last ten years, a sublime tribute to the filmmaking prowess of Tetsuya Nakashima. It’s an explosive end to a deeply affecting movie, a film that wilfully ignores the demands of modern theatre audiences. In the hands of a less capable director we could’ve walked down the all too familiar terrain of all out gore. There is bloodshed and twisted humour to be found, but it’s in keeping with the mood of the piece, and subtle lead performances keep the film grounded without ever resorting to excess - it’s not often you can say that about Japanese cinema these days.
He said: Without showing anything overtly, Confessions projects an atmosphere of palpable evil and menace with minimal locations and fuss. Fine-tuned characterizations help a plot structure that could become confusing if not dealt with so brilliantly, but this sophisticated shocker is slightly let down only by the plot’s thinness.
She said: Confessions blew me away.
He said: It’s obvious the only confession this movie needs to make is that it will blow you away.
She said: You won't be able to hear the sound of something important disappearing forever, because thankfully, Confessions is available now for you to behold. If that’s Yuko’s revenge, then I like it.
He said: Bursting with inventive visuals and a slew of nasty surprises, Confessions is a beautiful piece of work harmonized with a cracking soundtrack, brilliant screenplay and wonderful performances. Put simply, the best film of 2011.