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|Index||83 reviews in total|
It's the kind of feeling all over again that makes it a delight to
relive moments of a film that's just so steeped with brilliance. It's
dark and it's disturbing, a psychological thriller to rival some of the
best out there, tackling themes of poetic justice and revenge that's
coolly served in perfect tones of subversion, grabbing you by the
scruff of your neck with its extended hook from the start and lasting
some thirty minutes, before things kick into full gear for a chilling,
violent ride that's unflinching in its violence, laced with strong
characters filled with perverted motivations all round.
Written and directed by Tetsuya Nakashima and based upon the novel by Kanae Minato, the story's extremely hypnotic and sprawls points of views from multiple characters, each weaved intrinsically with one another and all being uncannily hypnotic in its stylish execution. The hook wraps up everything you'd come to expect from a great thriller, and that riveting introductory classroom scene alone is worth the price of an admission ticket many times over, orchestrating its sound contrast design to perfection where it seems a teacher is unable to control her class, and is nonchalantly attempting to do so until a bombshell is dropped to elicit an automatic silence, and fear.
Takako Matsue (of The Hidden Blade and Villon's Wife fame) plays a schoolteacher whose young daughter was murdered by students identified in her class. Rather than challenging the judge's verdict and knowing jolly well that a juvenile is protected by the law against capital punishment, the plan she devices is so devious that it turns the class upside down turning classmates against the guilty, and yet still hitting them where it hurts most, slowly observing and scheming any exploited weaknesses. Probably the best strategy anyone can adopt when dealing with unspeakable evil, and it is this execution of her plan that forms the remainder of the film told from different perspectives in confessional style (hence the title), where a deeper character study gets presented, while smartly fusing social observations about the restlessness of today's misguided teenagers in wanting recognition and being one up against their peers.
Mothers seem to come into play, and the film provokes thought into this aspect of human nature that's so universal. A mother loses her child, another maintains her protective blindness fending provocative charges against her son, while yet another proudly obsesses with wanting the best from her kid that it becomes detrimental to his development. One knows about the power of Mother's Love and the extent they will go to protect their brood, and here the school teacher's severe loss becomes the catalyst for revenge best served cold, while also becoming pawns in a plan best unraveled when you watch the film.
Nakashima's assured direction keeps you glued to every gorgeous frame thanks to its beautiful cinematography and shots that make it picture perfect, supported by an excellent soundtrack to bolster the dark mood created visually, and I just fell in love with the plenty of slow motion used which brings a sense of calming rhythm that betrays the dark undertones that were constantly brewing in the narrative. There doesn't seem to be a wasted frame or scene in the film, each moving the narrative forward in an engaging manner, keeping you guessing what's the next curve ball to be thrown, and silently rooting for justice in whatever form to be meted out, and on the other hand cannot help but to check yourself since they're kids to begin with, albeit guilty ones whom the teacher chooses a punishment that will resonate deeply throughout their lives, which is obviously a very long road ahead.
The predominant cast of teenagers also performed their roles admirably since one can imagine the kind of thought process they have to go through to play characters who are basically mentally unsound for doing what they did, and frankly these aren't things that are far fetched given notable crimes committed by juveniles here too. The violence can be unsettling here for those with weak stomachs, not so much whether there's plenty of gore put on screen, but psychologically when you're made to crawl under the perpetrators' skins seeing things from their viewpoints.
Confessions lives up to every critical acclaim garnered thus far, and I too love this film enough to put it firmly in my shortlist as the best film of the year, where all the technical elements that make up filmmaking gelled perfectly together with excellent performances all round. A movie gorgeously filmed that justifies why I go to the movies. A definite recommendation!
Kokuhaku (or Confessions) is a real winner from Japan. Just like the
title, the movie is about the Confessions of a group of people. After
each confession, a new detail is added into the story until it became a
complete story at the end.
I feel empty. Very disturbing. The movie remains dark and cold from the beginning until the end. A great thing in this movie is that you don't know who you should hate. Yes, it's obvious that they have done something terribly wrong, but after each confession, they suddenly became the victim, and then after the movie finished, you ended up feeling the sympathy for every characters.
The acting in this movie is absolutely fabulous. Just look at those eyes of the students. Cold and heartless. I watched it with my mouth wide open. The plot is perfect. I don't know what to complain. There are even some bloody scenes added to it, which make the movie more interesting.
I love it.
Lionel Shriver's novel, We need to talk about Kevin, went places where
few novelists had dared to venture; she did a great job - that entire
stretch where Kevin goes crazy was skillfully written and Ms.Shriver
deserved the Orange prize. However, director Nakashima has pushed the
boundaries further in this impressively shot and directed movie.
Confessions begins with a long-drawn lecture from Yuko Moriguchi, a teacher at a school somewhere in Japan. Ms.Moriguchi is about to leave the school; but before that, she wants to impart one final lesson - on the value of life. In doing so, she shocks her students with a revelation: her young daughter (very young, heart-wrenchingly young), whose death the police concluded was an accident, was intentionally murdered by two of her own students. She not only reveals the murderers' identity but also explains how she plans to take revenge on those students. This brilliant monologue that lasts for half-an-hour is the best part of the movie; it is wonderfully held together by Takaka Matsu's restrained performance.
Acts II and III present details of Moriguchi's actual scheme; it isn't as pedestrian as announced in class - it is much more devious and cruel. The movie scores because it creates an uneasy tension in the minds of the viewer: we realize that the kids' deeds are evil and are worthy of severe punishment. Hence, we don't find fault with the Mother's acts. However, it is very difficult for us to believe that it is their Teacher who is orchestrating these devious acts of revenge. It is in creating this constant discomfort that the writer's genius shines through.
The director extracts brilliant performances from the entire cast. I wonder how he worked with those two kids - how did he train them? The cinematography is high on aesthetics and adequately conveys the required dark mood. I however thought the final sequences (flames, blasts) could have been toned down a few notches.
While some might categorize this as a psychological revenge drama (which it is), I tend to view it more as a strong statement on the mental state of today's children and how they are affected by developments at home and relationships at places of education. It isn't a pleasant state of affairs, and Nakashima has conveyed so much in his unflinching dark- dark-dark drama.
CONFESSIONS is one of the most savage, brutal and poignant revenge
stories I have ever seen. It doesn't start off all that great, but it
by the end I was in awe. The movie begins in a Japanese classroom on
the final day of classes before the spring break and the remainder of
the movie are the events that follow the fateful day in this classroom.
The point of view switches numerous times throughout to different people affected by the event in the beginning. As the movie progresses you revisit past scenes from different character's perspectives but the scenes are never monotonous because you know much more the second time around. Much like an onion, CONFESSIONS is multi-faceted and there is much to discover and re-discover as each subsequent layer is peeled back.
A beautiful thing about this movie, at least for me, is how wildly my sympathy flip-flopped. Don't take sides too adamantly because as you learn more and more about the characters and events of the movie your sympathy too is bound to jump ship to the point where you're not totally sure who to side with. CONFESSIONS challenges you in this way. Some may find it frustrating but it just added to CONFESSIONS's charm and wit.
Unrelentingly dark, this movie is bound to incite feelings of bleakness and perhaps is not suited to those with a weak heart. The subject matter is heavy, the characters are morally-reprehensible and the feel of the movie is wholly somber from the greys and dull blues which saturate each and every scene to the melancholy (albeit perfectly-suited) soundtrack which works its way infectiously into your mind and makes the horrific scenes before your eyes resonate deeply.
I will not spiel on for much longer, but in closing; the acting is top-notch; the storytelling is captivating; the cinematography is gorgeous; and the touches of violence and blood are done in taste and to immense effect never feeling gratuitous.
I have seen many Japanese films but this one takes the cake as one of the best I have ever seen. If what I've said so far sounds convincing enough definitely give this movie a shot because I am rather hard to please and it did not let me down an ounce.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A surprise box office hit in Japan, 'Confessions' made its way to the
Toronto International Film Festival, and also chosen as Japan's entry
to the Oscars. However, it's a very Japanese movie I can only recommend
to viewers who have seen over 50 Japanese films or prior experience
with violent Japanese films. For everyone else, I would recommend less
graphic Japanese value-of-life school films such as 'The Blue Bird'
(2008) and 'School Days with a Pig' (2008).
Although there is a lot of blood spilled in the movie, it's still a mainstream picture with violence that's nothing compared to films directed by pre-2003 Miike Takashi, pre-2001 Kitano Takeshi, or most Japanese B-movies. What makes 'Confessions' a truly disturbing film, is that the horrifying acts of violence are done by teens, and adults' reactions toward them.
'Confessions' is the first non-comedy film directed by Nakashima Tetsuya, who is known for award-winning comedy films 'Kamikaze Girls', 'Memories of Matsuko', and 'Paco and the Magical Book'. The story is based on 2008 award-winning novel of same title, which tells the story of a teacher's revenge on two students who killed her daughter. The movie is thought-provoking as well as emotionally draining, and takes the saying "kids can be cruel" to a whole new level.
The Japanese term for teacher is "sensei", a title given not only to teachers, but also as suffix to other honorable occupations in society like doctors, writers, politicians, and lawyers. Teachers in Japan have traditionally been a highly respected occupation because they guide students not only in the subjects they teach, but also supposed to be mentors in life. In essence, a sensei performs the tasks of both teacher and student councilor for his/her class. The occupation has been glorified and beautified in abundance of modern literature with modern school dramas such as '3-B Kinpachi-sensei', 'GTO', 'Gokusen', and 'Rookies', where teachers connect with delinquent students by relentless trust and hard work. In 'Confessions', however, the teacher played by Matsu Takako is depicted as an emotionless and cruel individual who sets out to take the matter into her own hands by teaching the value of life through horrifying revenge. It even pokes fun at the glorified teacher's image in media with lines like "I don't trust any of you, you're all talented liars", and the absurdity of the passionate teacher who was totally unaware of the situation. The student violence and coldness of the teacher is very reminiscent of 'Battle Royale' (2000).
Acting and casting in this movie were superb. I have been a Matsu Takako fan for a long time, but it was by far her best performance ever, and handled her unlikely dark role surprisingly well. Her control of emotion was right on in the first half as a ruthless teacher who suffers from tremendous pain, but hides her feelings in front of her students. In the second half, her character break down a couple of times, and it wasn't very hard for me to sympathize with the character despite the horrible things she did. Kimura Yoshino, and Okada Masaki both played their parts brilliantly in supporting roles. The casting was ridiculously well-done because all the characters felt so real, which brings a chill down my spine because it seemed like such frightening events can actually happen in real life. The child actors also performed very well, depicting the ill state some of the classrooms in Japan, and the twisted thoughts juvenile minds can have. Teen model Hashimoto Ai, who played Student A's girlfriend especially shined. She definitely will have a great career ahead if she can continue to perform at this level.
The story is unveiled through confessions of various characters in the movie, sometimes repeating the same event from different perspectives. Everyone expresses their own hopes and despair, sadness and hatred. The fast narratives combined with hauntingly beautiful slow motion imagery and mesmerizing background music gave this film an eerie, gloomy atmosphere that complimented the story, as well as an exceedingly engaging flow of plot development. My only complaint is that the movie is slightly overproduced with excessive use of slow-motion throughout the film that offset the climax scene, which used high-speed camera and CG. But overall, extremely well-directed and bold art house human horror mystery.
The movie addresses common social issues in Japan, such as bullying, abuse of child protection act, discrimination, and suicide from a whole new angle. 'Confessions', like many fine traditional Japanese films, is very emotionally draining, but keeps up the suspense throughout the film.
By taking lives so lightly and easily in the film, the director conveyed the true value of one's life.
Despite having already read the book and knowing fully well what was
coming, I was still shocked. Confessions is a disturbing film, a morbid
film and what happens is mind-blowing. It is disheartening, scary even,
to see middle school students who are close to demented, with no
heartfelt mercy or sympathy, who can kill freely for baffling reasons.
At the same time, the adult characters are just as heartless. The
teacher, Yuko Moriguchi (played by Takako Matsu) is intimidating her
only purpose in life after the death of her daughter is revenge; far
from the typical adult mentor and role model that we are so used to
But the reason why I gave a higher rating to the film than the novel was because the director, Testuya Nakashima, did a marvelous job at taking a mediocre book with stagnant flow and transforming it into an intelligently crafted suspenseful film that maintains realism and proper flow. The 'blue' look (most obvious in the classroom scenes) and the ominous, monotonous soundtrack just adds to the film's darkness. Though the initial confession by Ms. Moriguchi is rather long winded, the rest of the film will consistently confuse, startle and even upset audiences. You will see children involved in relentless bullying and even cold-blooded murder the middle school students' performances are astonishingly convincing. By the end of the film, you may feel cheated at such a disgusting and horrifying ending. You will be astounded and maybe even depressed at mankind's depravity if that was the intention of both the author and director, they succeeded in playing a cruel joke on us all.
A good review doesn't always have to be long, and there are really just
a few words needed to describe this movie. Stunningly beautiful
cinography, dark, disturbing, and yet Great! That being said, don't
dive into this thing if you plan on watching a good fast revenge flick,
because this was mentally challenging. You always have to sit analyzing
everything that's happening from beginning to end, and there's really
not a lot of breakes.
I had read a few of the reviews here before watching this movie, but I had no idea the movie was going to be like it was, watch it to find out, most definitely worth 2~ hours of your life.
Confessions, directed by one of my favorite Japanese directors, Tetsuya
Nakashima, is one of the most disturbing and depressing movies I have
watched this year. It is a psychological thriller of a grieving teacher
turned cold-blooded avenger with a twisty master plan to pay back the
students who were responsible for her daughter's death.
In the story, the major characters make confessions one by one. The more perspectives from which the murder is looked at, the more we know about the characters and their motives, which may remind the audience of A Stranger of Mine. As the story is unfolded, there are several surprising twists. While making confessions and sometimes touching on the subjects they are ashamed of, some characters refuse to accept the truth, tell lies and point the finger of blame at others to salve their conscience.
The director tries to explore the reasons why innocent children become evil teenagers with no conscience. Some seek attention because they are abandoned or physically abused by their parents. Some become vulnerable owing to their overprotective parents. Some feel lonely because they are nerds neglected and bullied by their peers. Some commit suicide or other crimes because they follow suit. Some tragedies are also attributed to the internet which allows people to gossip anonymously, the mass media which places too much emphasis on violence, and the law which exempts teenage murderers from being punished. Thanks to the convincing cast, the characters become lifelike.
The black-grey-and-white setting, which is very different form the flamboyance of Memories of Matsuko, is stifling and depressing. After watching the film, the images of crimson blood, white milk, snow-white sakura, the bleak classroom, the lifeless homes and the dimly lit school hall will linger in one's mind. Apart from these, the gloomy skies in the movie were reminiscent of the ones in Elephant by Gus Van Sant. Despite the ominous dark clouds gathering overheard, every cloud has a silver lining, which symbolizes that the director still believes in the goodness of human nature, despite its dark side. This belief is also reflected in the scene when the female teacher stares at the strawberry given by a kid and another scene in which she says "your new life has begun".
The mesmerizing classical music, spiced with a hypnotizing female voice, not only creates a shocking contrast to the disturbing scenes shot in slow motion, but also adds eeriness to the story. The sound effects are also memorable. When the female teacher puts down the last stroke of the word LIFE on the blackboard, the ear-piercing sound chilled me the bone. When the bubble pops, we feel hopeless.
The film would have been more gripping if the first confession had been shorter and less talky. Besides, the CG images at the end are mediocre. Also, it is a difficult movie for the faint-hearted to sit through.
On the whole, Confessions is a darkly disturbing, visually stunning and thought provoking movie ruthlessly exposing the root of various teenage problems and the dark side of human nature. After watching the movie, I left the cinema with a heavy heart. It conjured up images of several parricides committed by Hong Kong teenagers recently and I pondered on what had happened to our post 90's generation.
Sometimes I feel like I have to watch a lot of Asian thrillers just to
find one that really works. For every 50 or so I watch, there will be
only one 20th Century Boys or Confessions. The film works on pretty
much every level, though it might be a bit hard to follow for some.
The story starts with a pretty simple event. What you're completely unprepared for is that such a simple act will spiral completely out of control into an incredibly twisted series of events. You see...this is one of those movie that will tell (relatively) the same story from different angles and perspectives. That bit may throw some people off, but I promise it all makes sense if you're paying attention. And you should be paying attention, because watching the whole thing unravel is a hell of a lot of fun.
Every movie has at least a couple drawbacks, however minor. One minor thing that kind of irritated me was the frequent use of slow motion shots. I understand using it to emphasize the importance of a shot, but this is just a little out of hand. Also, I wish some of the alternative tellings of events happened more linearly at some points. In some cases results are shown before the audience has a chance to even follow the story line to what leads to said action. But those are both minor nitpicks, really. On the whole, the movie is just plain excellent.
This little stormer of a movie really takes Asian extreme movies in
another direction. A revenge movie that will keep you intrigued and
interested till the end. The Far East market has been the home of great
originality in the terror & horror film markets, and this is one great
highlight in that vein.
The film begins in a school classroom where the teacher tells her pupils that she is leaving, and then begins to tell a long tale revolving round her life and the tragic death that haunts her (her "Confession"). This leads to serious repercussions for some of the pupils. Twists and turns in the story then unfold for the viewer as we are retold further confessions to piece it all together.
A very cerebral movie, the direction masks the revenge story at its heart with a very art-house look and indie soundtrack. A very original film, the acting is exceptional especially from the young school kids. Our lead lady who plays the class teacher is mesmerising as she leads the opening long confession scene. It was a very well delivered scene by her and sets the tone beautifully.
The film begins quite psychological but it then does slide into more graphic detail. Takes you by the hand and leads you down the dark heart at its centre. You don't ever seem to know what to expect.
It's great to have such a fresh original movie. Acting, story and direction are superb. A film I'd highly recommend to all who enjoy dark hearted movies.
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