Thursday, 10 March 2011


Confessions (告白)
I absolutely love Oldboy and love Japanese cinema. So when I read various reviews and articles about the 2010 Japanese thriller Confessions being called ‘The Japanese Oldboy’ , I was immediately interested. It then was short-listed for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, therefore there was no excuse not to see it. And after seeing it, I have to say it is one of my favourite films of 2010. Director, Nakashima Tetsuya has created a film, that is horrifyingly violent and dark, but also changes our perceptions of the typical revenge thriller. 
Confessions’s plot is hard to summarise, due to its complex story structure. The back of the DVD case states ‘A grieving mother turns cold-blooded avenger with a twisted master plan to pay back those who are responsible for her daughter’s death’. This summary may present a stereotypical revenge plot on the surface, but Confessions is much more deeper. The first scene is simple astonishing, and certainly is different in its approach to typical revenge stories. Essentially, it is just the teacher, Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) announcing her resignation to her class. She then precedes to monologue about her reasons why, which result in the revelation that her 4 year old daughter, Manami, was murdered by two pupils in the class. Her subtle hints of the two individuals’ personalities and behaviour, soon results in the disclosure of their identities. She then reveals that she has laced the ‘murderers’ milk with her husband’s HIV infected blood. From then on, the film is told through the ‘confessions’ of various characters, from the mother of Student B, to one of the girls in the class. We experience the characters’ reflections on the events that have transpired, and descend into a world of madness, grief, revenge and obsession. Confessions also provides a powerful social commentary on various issues that have been prevalent in Japanese society and society in general; such as child abuse, bullying and suicide.
The acting is great, with much of the film focusing on the cast of teenagers. All the young performances are realistically portrayed, with Student B (Kaoru Fujiwara) really putting a terrifying show. His guilt and psychological breakdown, while may come across over-the-top to many, is simply frightening. The real star of the film however, is Matsu Takako ,who plays the revengeful teacher. She really left a strong impression and deserves the recognition for her role. Her calm exterior hides her inner turmoil of tragedy, revenge and even madness. But later on, she breaks her collected ‘shell’ and shows her true intent through the memorable confrontations with the various characters. 
My only gripe with the film, is its attempts to be too artistic. There are a lot of instances of slow-motion and the replaying of scenes, which while look impressive, eventually end up being tiresome. A scene near the end, while has spectacular CGI and is very cinematic, really seemed out of place. But these problems are merely minor when compared to the overall impression of the film.
Confessions is a very ‘Japanese’ film. What I mean by this, is that it is very stereotypical of modern Japanese cinema. Many will drawn comparisons to Battle Royale and Suicide Club due to the graphic violence and the portrayal of Japanese teenagers. But Confessions is very unique in its direction and its darkly dramatic story. The various twist keeps the audiences on its toes, while allowing a constant stream of shocking revelations. It is a fantastic film and a refreshing take on ‘revenge’ cinema. While the premise is disturbing and genuinely terrifying, the direction and acting is superb. Plus its soundtrack includes Radiohead’s ‘Lotus Flower’. 

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  1. I find it interesting that you liked the film, overall, but your only gripe about it is the style -- which really is... landmark? in Tetsuya Nakashima's filmography.

    While most of the other reviews I read that complained about the story and characters only had Nakashima's style to praise. Interesting indeed. xD

    By the way, the film wasn't nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar, it made the 9 shortlist but didn't make the final 5.

    If you didn't like the over-hyper style in the film, maybe I shouldn't recommend Nakashima's other works xD even though films like Memories of Matsuko and Kamikaze Girls are much better films.

    Thanks for participating in the blogathon - for each non-YAM Magazine post written for the blogathon, we are giving $1 up to $100.

  2. woops, cheers for the heads up on the Oscars thing. In relation to my problem with the style. I though that the slow motion was really atmospheric in certain scenes for instance: The Locker scene (plus 'Last Flower' by Radiohead really made that 'montage'). However I felt it was over-used by the end. The story was fantastic with the 'monologue' at the start being genius.

    I'm a critic who prefers a well-told and engrossing story. Effects and style come later. But cheers for reading, and I may check out Nakashima's filmography