Violent human nature and the influence of the media on the social order of the world are brilliantly interwoven in the latest film from Japanese director Tetsuya Nakashima, the deep and disturbing psychological thriller Confessions (2010). Based upon the book of the same title by author Kanae Minato, the film consists of a series of confessions by different people, struck by the same tragedy – the murder of a child.
After a police inquiry declares the death of Manami (the child in question) as accidental, her mother Yuko Moriguchi (played brilliantly by Takako Matsu) promises not to further pursue the two students involved. However, when it is revealed that the death of her daughter was a meaningless event to “Student A” and “Student B” – whose narcissistic need for attention replaced their guilt with pride – Yuko embarks on a dark, vengeful journey in order to punish her child’s murderers, and through their suffering teach them the value of the human life.
Confessions doesn’t comment on the deep disturbances of personalities, but instead portrays them as an inevitable bi-product of contemporary society. Here, Nakashima seems less interested in exploring the psychological problems of the arrogant violent teenagers and more inclined to discussing Japan’s current social state as a tool in the process of abusing the darkest human instincts.
From his point of view, the reasons behind their abhorrent actions are trite and unimportant, which is why the film doesn’t look at them in particular depth. What is important is the chaos and malaise of today’s apathetic and narcissistic youth, where fear is buried under the layers of overprotective parents, alienation, abandonment issues and the poetic notion of the Child Protection Act, as defence mechanisms in the face of immoral actions.
Innocence and rationality have no place in this world and there is clearly a high price to pay for such naivety, which is conveyed through the characters of Manami and “Student B’s” mother. These are the beautifully innocent souls unsoiled by the evil of the world, yet there is no place for them within the existing social order. They are not victims of murder, but the victims of a chain of evil that exists in a society where there are no consequences for wrong deeds.
Nakashima still appears to have belief in the goodness of human nature (perfectly displayed in a scene where a young child gives Yuko a small strawberry candy). However, the small, sporadic instances of pure and innocent goodness in the film are trapped within a chaotic social order where there is no mercy.
Perhaps overly graphic at times, Confessions is nevertheless beautifully scripted and unravels its engaging plot piece by piece, keeping the audience consistently on its toes. There is also a true sense of sadness and heaviness that lingers in the film’s haunting soundtrack, which combined with the cold, dark blue palette of the entire film and the contrasting imagery of blood, milk and fire, plays out as a painful parable upon the value of human life.
Antoniya Petkova (CUEAFS)