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DVD Review: ‘Confessions’

★★★★☆

Tetsuya Nakashima’s Confessions (2010) is a powerful exploration and dissection of what we understand about ourselves as human beings and the fine line between our civility and the reality of our innate primal behaviour. By juxtaposing the bewildering and inconsequential age of adolescence with the reality of adulthood, Nakashima provides a fierce arena, within which he toys with themes of life and death, revenge and forgiveness, and love and hate.

Yuko Moriguchi, played by Takako Matsu [K-20: Legend of the Mask (2008)] is a middle-school teacher whose four-year-old daughter is found dead. Traumatised by the events, she finally returns to her classroom, only to become convinced that two of her students are responsible for her daughter’s murder. The police deem the cause of death to be accidental and the public willingly accept that as the easiest of truths, but Yuko believes she knows what really happened and thus decides to take her revenge.

Nakashima’s film, like the original award winning novel written by Kanae Minato, is delivered through a series of detailed confessions that comb finely the events that lead to its climax. Starting with Yuko Moriguchi’s tone-setting confession, the film begins its gradual and brilliant ascent that develops into a crescendo of agonising truths and psychological traumas that are delivered with a perfectly pitched soundtrack and beautifully framed shots (including music by Radiohead and The XX) culminating in a climax that exposes the fragility of humanity and its delicate nature.

The painstaking attention to detail conveyed by a wonderful script – also written by Nakashima – and the superb performances of its cast means that Confessions begs questions that an audience may not wish to answer. At times it becomes deeply intimate, with the callous and cold events it depicts, and the usual filmic distance we are offered by many, perhaps more westernised revenge films fades away. It offers no escape as it marches forward, casting aside any notion of forgiveness by demolishing the usual safe-haven concept of family and the implicit acceptance it provides through love.

To accentuate its rather bleak and altogether nihilistic style, Confessions adopts a universal colour scheme of greys, blacks, and dark blues that are all coated in a bland sepia that further conveys its powerfully affecting morose overtones. However, this is not to say that the film isn’t enjoyable. It is a brilliantly crafted piece of work that utilises the aforementioned colour scheme, and powerfully emotive music that is placed in a fashion that, at times, enables it to act as another voice, almost as a narrator of sorts that sets the film’s tone effectively; clearly the post-production phase of this film played a huge part in its overall delivery.

Accompanying its style, there are some excellent performances to note: Matsu as Yuko Moriguchi; Yukito Nishii as Shuya Watanabee; and Kaoru Fujiwara as Naoki Shimomura – each being integral to the authoritative clout that, along with Nakashima’s wonderful direction, enables it to be so effective.

Nakashima’s Confessions is certainly not the first of its kind and it will not be the last, but there is a sense that once again a talented Japanese director has managed to pose innovative and perhaps provocative ideas that deconstruct the usual traits specific to a genre – in this case revenge. It is fair to say that the usual Hollywood remake is inevitable, but if you want to experience the film’s real power, Nakashima’s version will be the only way.

Russell Cook