I remember standing in line outside the Ryerson last September for the midnight TIFF premiere of Stake Land and seeing the faces of the people coming out of the theatre from the film that had just screened. They were a wide-eyed bunch that carried a buzz that they had just seen something special. I spotted a familiar face in the crowd filing by, hailed him over and asked what he'd just come out of. It was a Japanese revenge thriller called Confessions and he proclaimed it was the best thing he'd seen all festival. Fast forward to now and my recently acquired copy from ye olde Eyesore.
A middle-school teacher (Takako Matsu) hatches a diabolical plot to punish a pair of students in her class she believes murdered her daughter.
I now understand the looks. This movie is amazing. It is so dark and fucked up that it could be considered a companion piece to Chan-wook Park's Vengeance Trilogy. It is that twisted and just as good. Confessions has a visual flair that at first caught me off guard. I guess I was expecting a more moody and ambiguous piece, like something from Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Instead, director Tetsuya Nakashima offers a wild beast of a film rife with wonderful montages, controlled pacing, and a decidedly Western soundtrack, including Radiohead's Last Flowers in its entirety, not once, but twice.
Confessions begins with the avenging teacher calling out her daughter's murderers on the last day of the term and then it moves on from there. At first, I was disappointed that the whole film wasn't just this last day of class with it playing out like something in the vein of Stephen King's Rage – subbing in the disturbed student Charlie Decker for the teacher Moriguchi – but then it became so much more brilliantly complex from there. The narrative is split among several characters, each revealing their own point of view on the crucial events of the story. It is engaging, clever and really well done. And much like the Vengeance trilogy, Confessions wraps up with an extremely strong conclusion that just leaves you staring, mouth open, thinking, “Where the hell do they come up with this stuff? I mean Geezus!” It is the also the kind of film that further emphasizes how different the cinematic boundaries are between the East and West. You would NEVER see anything like this made here.
Confessions is a damn fine film that would've surely been high up in my top twenty of 2010 had I the foresight to catch it at TIFF last year.