Director Tetsuya Nakashima’s movie Confessions was selected as the official Japanese entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at this years Academy Awards after winning Best Film, Best Director, and Best Screenplay & Best Editor at the 34th Japan Academy Prize. Unsurprisingly after watching it, it did not win an Oscar.
Perhaps if Nakashima had simply entered the first 30 minutes as a short it would have been a very different story because sadly after an intense and epic introduction this over stylised art house picture looses all its power and all the audiences’ interest.
The power house opening involves the confession of Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) a middle-school teacher whose life was destroyed when her four year old daughter was found dead. Convinced that her child’s accidental death was no accident at all she starts investigating herself only to discover that two of her pupils are to blame.
Devoured by revenge and anger she sets about destroying the lives of the kids who ruined hers waging a physical and psychological campaign on them, which we see evolving through the confessions of the students themselves and those closest to them, changing their lives forever to punish them for the crimes that the law let them get away with.
Tales of revenge have been appearing in movies for centuries from the Spaghetti Western to the 80’s action movies right up to the amazingly brutal and brilliant Korean revenge trilogy from Chan-wook Park and the upcoming I Saw the Devil.
Although promising so much from its bold, intriguing and abstractly constructed opening Confessions ultimately has nothing new to bring to the genre in its story, themes or characters as this Rubik’s Cube of revenge quickly unravels revealing stereotypical clichés and predictable twists.
After the first 30 minutes which is the time it takes for Moriguchi to tell her tragic tale and her shocking act of vengeance to her pupils, turning her class of unruly and uncaring kids into silent statues petrified by shock and fear the film falls apart spending the rest of its 106 minutes running time deteriorating into a pretentious pointless pulp.
Nakashima, who also directed Kamikaze Girls and Memories Of Matsuko and wrote the script based on a novel, is obviously endeavouring to subvert mainstream cinema in his stylisation and story telling however his efforts have a detrimental affect on the overall film and the enjoyment of the audience.
The mixture of monologue and flashbacks with incongruous elements such as slow motion and other effects starts out as interesting but there overuse eventually becomes tiresome and annoying.
These flashy techniques mixed with the intrusive music, which includes the kings of morbid navel gazing themselves Radiohead, makes the whole thing look at best like an overlong music video and at worst a first year students art project.
Within Confessions is a great 30 minute short film that has misguidedly been overextended to the point of pretension, diluting and polluting all its intensity and originality until the audience becomes bored and frustrated, unmoved and uncaring when the obvious climax finally comes.
My confession is I wish I had switched this movie off after the first 30 minutes.