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Japan 2010


Tetsuya Nakashima

Takako Matsu
Yukito Nishii
Kaoru Fujiwara
Masaki Okada
Yoshino Kimura
Ai Hashimoto
Ikuyo Kuroda
Makiya Yamaguchi
Mana Ashida
Soichiro Suzuki
Kinuwo Yamada
Tsutomu Takahashi
Hirofumi Arai

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Story: It's the last day at school before summer holidays when teacher Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) tells the 7th grade students that this is her last day at school. The uninterested students don't care about it, but then Moriguchi starts to state the reasons for her decision. She talks about her little daughter who has died in a swimming pool in the school yard area. The police has officially closed the case and regards the little girl's death as a tragical accident, but Moriguchu knows better than that. Two of her students have killed her daughter. The teacher can even prove this but since the law would treat them as "under age of criminal responsibility", they wouldn't have to fear any real consequences. Therefore, the teacher tells her class what two individuals she is talking about and also announces that she has mixed some of the blood of her husband, who is an AIDS victim, into the milk of those two children. Moriguchi's plan of revenge pays off during the next semester. One of the students doesn't show up at school at all and goes crazy while the other one is bullied by his classmates day after day. However, the question remains why the two students have killed the little child. One after another the involved parties are making a confession that sheds some light on the precise circumstances of the murder and leads into the abyss of the human mind...

Review: Tetsuya Nakashima is one of the most original and impressive directors of Japanese cinema. His "Kamikaze Girls" and most of all his masterpiece "Memories of Matsuko" have further cemented his reputation as a director who tells profound stories in artistically genuine and appealing pictures. In "Confessions" he is parting with the humorous elements of his movies, although not completely, and creates a very melancholic work that is at times unbearably dark and deals with topics like emotional void, bullying of classmates and a legal situation that allows teenagers under 14 to commit crimes without having to fear any serious consequences. An artifially drawn border that allows the individuals in the film to act as they please while undergoing a phase of the outmost confusion. Therefore, the teacher is looking for a way to take revenge on the murderers of her little daughter and for that she is coming up with a cleverly devised plan. With its unusually dark pictures Nakashima manages to create a inimitable mood which perfectly carries the story until the very end.

The story of the film is based on a novel of Minato Kanae but director Nakashima doesn't simply let the story do all the work, instead he mainly uses his pictures to carry it. The technical expertise of Nakashima has reached such a high degree that he is capable of capturing a certain atmosphere completely accurately by the use of pictures alone. The polished pictures, that are all standing out with a dark blue and grey are often shot in slow-motion, apparently with a high-speed camera while some unobtrusive but very well done CGI-effects allow for shots that normally wouldn't have been able to make. The pictures are accompanied by a constantly present melancholic sound tapestry provided by the soundtrack of Radiohead and Boris which can further intensify the atmosphere. If you want to accuse Nakashima of any wrongdoings it would be that he is making use of his pictures and slow-motion shots in a too intentional way and too frequently. But had he refrained from doing so he never could have created such a constricting mood in his film.

Nakashima's pictures stand as projections of the protagonists' inner life. Loneliness is the reason for all the evil depicted in the movie. A kind of loneliness that is so strong that the protagonists are filled with an emotional vacuum. The things they do they actually do simply because they want to feel that they are still alive. They want to be noticed by the people around them and therefore just long for love. But in performance-oriented society it is only of importance what grades you get in school. But even that isn't enough anymore as the best pupil in the class has to find out himself in the film. Even an invention of him which gets him into the newspaper is outdone. By a crime that makes it to the front page. A little girl, that without any apparent reason poisened her parents. Nakashima is searching for reasons in actions that seemingly aren't motivated by anything and he gives us some honest answers. This makes "Confessions" a strongly socio-critical work that aims at answering questions like why murderers, for instance the little girl that has killed her parents, are suddenly celebrated as heroes by people of the same age.

The chaos in the classroom at the beginning already anticipates what's about to come. Moriguchi makes a confession, but at first no one in class is interested in it. The chaos, egoism and the selfdestructive forces that characterize the society of adults have already found their way into the world of the teenagers. There is only left an embittered shadow of the once ambitious teacher that is now seeking revenge. The movies narrational perspective changes throughout the film in a well-balanced fashion between the individual characters and several flashbacks throw light on certain background information. Doing that the director manages to portray the characters with a particular coldness and distance that gives the viewer the possibility to judge himself about who is to give the blame for everything. Takako Matsu delivers a well-achieved portrayal of the teacher but even with her as the obvious individual that suffers the most it is not easy to sympathize with. This is even more difficult when it comes to the other students, of course, who are picking on the weak in order not to see themselves as victims of society. Here, evil is giving birth to new evil in a never-ending circle.

The visual power of "Confessions" is once again breathtaking. Tetsuya Nakashima's sense for light and shadow, the original camera work as well as the excessivily used background music, that makes you recognize that the director may not have been shooting music videos but commercials before he turned to the big screen, are all adding to the story and arouse an enormous melancholy that doesn't make you wonder that one of the movie's characters is actually called Werther. The director also doesn't miss to dim up the mood at some points by use of biting black humor but surely nothing ever gets brighened up here. Nakashima's socio-critical work feels like a low-blow and takes us into another world with its mesmerizing pictures, a world of loneliness, melancholy and a deep abyss of desire. A world that amazingly has a lot of intersections with our world. Even though the tremendous amount of melancholy in the film and the fact that we can't really suffer with any of the characters or suffer just the same with everyone, which is therefore reason to the absence of any tears at the end of this drama, could have proven problematic "Confessions" eventually works out on a more subtle and lasting emotional level. Another little gem of Tetsuya Nakashima!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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