Written by: Michael Den Boer on February 17th, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: UK, February 18th, 2011
Production Company: Toho Company / Third Window Films
Approximate running time: 106 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Language: Japanese with English subtitles
Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
Writer: Tetsuya Nakashima
Cinematographers: Masakazu Ato, Atsushi Ozawa
Composer: Toyohiko Kanahashi
Cast: Takako Matsu, Masaki Okada, Yoshino Kimura, Mana Ashida, Kaoru Fujiwara, Kai Inowaki, Sora Iwata, Daichi Izumi, Karin Katô, Takuya Kusakawa, Ayaka Miyoshi, Hiroki Nakajima, Yukito Nishii, Hotaru Nomoto, Rena Nônen, Naoya Shimizu, Tsutomu Takahashi, Makiya Yamaguchi, Kasumi Yamaya, Ayuri Yoshinaga
Revenge films have long been a staple in Japanese cinema, with kinetic scenes of blood soaked carnage and acts of violence eclipsing the effects of the journey on the protagonist’s psyche. While revenge themed films are often predictable, when done right they can be an exhilarating experience that is both thought provoking and entertaining. The key to finding this balance relies heavily on the shoulders of the central characters; if the viewer is unable to relate to them, it is impossible to feel their pain and connect on an emotional level.
My first introduction to Tetsuya Nakashima was Kamikaze Girls, a exuberant film with rapid fire pacing and a robust color palette. I was immediately drawn into his unique cinematic universe and was eager to explore more of his films. That occurred with Memories of Matsuko, but while the ‘Technicolor’ hues were still there, the story was not as upbeat. Certainly there were still moments of exuberance, mostly during the film’s stylized musical numbers, but overall the tone of the film was bleak, the experience grueling yet rewarding. Needless to say, I was more impressed then ever and itching to check out his latest film Confessions.
This time around he creates a poignant tale about revenge rooted in consequences. The film primarily centers around three characters, a middle school teacher named Yuko Moriguchi and two students who are responsible for killing her daughter. Structure wise the plot is broken down into three sections, one for the teacher and one for each of the killers, with the lengthiest section belonging to the teacher. Her ‘confession’ opens the film and does a superb job setting up who everyone is and what their motivations are. This section sets firmly in place the tone of the film and the deliberate pacing.
Confessions is easily Tetsuya Nakashima’s most gut wrenching film to date. Whether it be the film’s subdued colors or melancholy score / soundtrack (which includes the Radiohead song ‘Last Flowers’), this film excels. Not to be overlooked is the film’s exceptional cast which is anchored by Takako Matsu (9 Souls) in the role of Yuko Moriguchi. Another performance of note is Masaki Okada in the role of one of the killers, and the most memorable moments in the film are scenes in which his character interacts with Yuko Moriguchi; especially their climatic showdown for the film’s finale.
Without a doubt the most compelling aspect of this film is the journey upon which these three characters embark. The teacher determines that since society will not hold them accountable for their crimes due to their tender age, the best way to revenge is though milk injected with HIV infected blood. Now fearing that their lives are all but over, the two respond to their new situation in completely different ways. One withdraws from the world and slowly unravels, while the other remains stubborn and defiant. His lack of remorse eventually leads to his downfall, as that which he holds most precious is lost forever.
Note: Confessions is being released by Third Window Films on DVD and Blu-Ray on April 25th, 2011. And the film will open at selected UK cinemas on February 18th, 2011.