Confessions (Kokuhaku in Japan) is a 2010 revenge thriller based on Kanae Minato’s critically acclaimed debut novel. From director Tetsuya Nakashima who also produced the visually bubbly ‘Kamikaze Girls‘ and highly introspective ‘Memories of Matsuko‘, his signatures as an auteur filmmaker are throughout – hyperreal filters, ethereal music and illuminating colours all providing an overwhelming aesthetic. The film follows a mother – Yuko Moriguchi – who schemes revenge on those regarded as responsible for her daughter’s demise – a ruthless angle to the idea of her as a’ teacher’. Each character involved in the sordid ‘accident’ have extensive monologues to explain their perspective on the whole event, providing unique insights into their psychology that’s uncomfortable as some unravel into the intense void of dark pathologies.
Opening in a classroom with a powerfully focused lecture from Yuko Moriguchi, which emotively recounts her loss in superb acting, she soon expounds on her personal tragedy that is soon clarified to have absolute relevance to classroom being taught: that two boys in the room, Boy A and Boy B, were maliciously responsible. As she concludes with shocking revelations, and begins to enact plans to spite those deemed culpable, her motive is clear as a determination for vengeance which the authorities could not offer: a personal mission to terrorize as a punishment and precipitate bullying. Each character has their histories, reasons and intentions for a profound characterization which feels exposing akin to therapy session, confessions intimately contouring how somebody was embroiled into such criminal circumstances.
Stylishly shot as it is emotionally resonant, with a barrage of twists for a continuously tense plot, Confessions is a beautifully realized film that’s poetical on the themes of retribution of tragedy and wayward personalities ; an artistic class of movie that explores the darkest human elements of a tragedy, where it takes these people. As the film audaciously confronts you with violence and the consequences of this, one will intrigued with every development ensuing as the intensity does not relent. The music enhances the film splendidly with an emotive quality only elevating each scene and combines with the artistic cinematography for breathtakingly visceral results.
Challenging society on the age of criminal responsibility, and deconstructing the vanity to evil as futile exercises of power against respectability, Confessions is an exposé on the naivety of a society: we underestimate adolescents and think of repercussions from their antics as feeble. Revenge, while socially inappropriate to the law, is also empathetically explored as the only way to channel a satisfying retribution for accountability in an overly lenient system indifferent to the despair of a victim.
The plot pacing, acting, camerawork, themes, vibrant aesthetic, timeless soundtrack and original premise will absolutely have this as a cult classic well into the future and few other films are such a harrowing take on a destructive act intimately exposing our fragile human condition succumbing into wicked choices. The film has no respite in a morals to act as a parable, it is merciless cinematic experience on revenge.
Confessions as a novel is an epistolary thriller on revenge where each character has a valid motive understandable for them. It’s as dark as the film and full of twists, enticing one into the ‘Heart of Darkness’ whereas understandable these characters may be, sympathy will be the last emotion for relating to any of them. The novel is perhaps spoilt in impact from any foreknowledge through the film, but it is nevertheless a deeper account for any fans of the franchise.
As an alternative, there is also another adaptation from the work of this psychologically raw author: Penance (Shokuzai (贖罪)), a 2012 television series and directed from the magnificent Kiyoshi Kurosawa!
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