“You have not seen anything like it.” That’s what I usually tell people when I recommend this movie and chances are (99%), I’m right because frankly, I have not seen anything like it at all. A lot would argue that if you’re a big Japanese film/anime fan then some themes would be familiar. That might be true, but being a big Japanese film/anime fan myself, I still found myself fascinated by this work of art.
Without giving too much away, Confessions tells the story of Yuko Moriguchi, a grief stricken teacher who has decided to resign. On her last day, she decides to make a confession to her class of 13 and 14 year olds about her daughter and 2 of her students. She then tells them that she has injected HIV positive blood in 2 of the milk cartons everyone has just drunk from. Chaos ensues. This happens in the first few minutes and the rest of the film deals with the events following the confession. Now why did she do that? What was her motivation? How was the class linked to her grief? It’s quite an impressive premise and the multi-layered plot is shocking and beautiful. This isn’t just a simple tale of revenge, it’s something darker and more disturbing.
There will be immediate comparisons to Battle Royale, but this film trumps BR (and its crappy sequel) on all levels. The direction is superb, as we’re led from one tragic revelation to the next in so smooth a manner it makes the disturbing aspects of the film even more brutal and shocking. The film does become preachy at times, but the messages that are delivered are ultimately thought-provoking and unsettling. There is very little flaw in the direction apart from the overly done climax when everything literally explodes in epic Japanese fashion but it’s still so effective and powerful you can’t fault director Tetsuya Nakashima for choosing that style.
Another very noticeable thing about this film is the stunning visuals. The film is dominated by dark scenes, and the whole color palette seems so desaturated to a point that it seems we’re looking at an almost black and white film. This lends a very unique look to the film and makes Confessions perhaps the best looking Japanese film of 2010. In addition, there is very little musical score to speak of here but there is a smattering of melancholic tunes by local Japanese and foreign artists which appropriately fit the mood and atmosphere of the film. You have to see and hear to believe it. The combination of stunning visuals and ambient music make for a very unique movie experience.
This film is made up of messed up characters in even messier situations and thankfully the cast is able to pull off an amazing performance. There are a few missteps but none too major. The cast is believable as a whole and although some characters are too comical for everyone’s taste this is typical of Japanese films.
You have not seen anything like it. Confessions is a truly unique film, from the thought provoking storyline to the moody and disturbing visuals. This film will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who love cinema, this is a real treat. A true pinnacle in Japanese filmmaking.
(Confessions was selected to represent Japan in the Best Foreign Language film in the Oscars, and made it to the shortlist of 10 films before being eliminated in the final stretch.)