Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Movie Review: Confessions (Kokuhaku) - 2010

Trash with an artsy icing

IMDB "Confessions" by director Tetsuya Nakashima is an effective socio thriller that won't leave any viewer unaffected. I give it that. But it is also a stone-cold, calculated movie without a heart. Its primitive morality is covered by an artsy fartsy coating which, sadly, makes critics believe that the movie had something profound to tell.

The movie starts with a bang of an opening scene. A teacher tells her class of 7th graders about the value of life. Keeping the same calm tone throughout, she then tells them that her little daughter died; that she got in fact murdered by two students currently attending the class. She elaborates on how the two students will get away with their heinous deed because they are below the age of criminal responsibility. Before leaving, though, she reveals a nasty surprise for them: She has just infected the killers with the HIV virus. The film proceeds with showing from different perspectives what is going on in the kids minds and how the teacher's twisted revenge plan unfolds.

It does so with demonstrative artistic style. Whereas the cold color scheme and the frequent shots of dark clouds may be reasonable gimmicks to create a dark atmosphere, there are also countless slow motion shots that seem to have no purpose other than make the film look artsy. The same goes for the odd choice of music and some scenes that are deliberately out of place, like one where the students almost perform a musical act.

With its artsy style, "Confessions" apparently tries to mimic Chan-Wook Park's revenge trilogy, "Oldboy", "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance", and "Sympathy for Lady Vengeance". One could argue that those movies are also somewhat pretentious. But below the surface, their morality is complex. Park's revenge trilogy is about people who are basically good but who heap guilt upon themselves, and the revenge doesn't lead to redemption.

Contrary to that, Nakashima's world is simplistic and strictly divided into good and evil. All the kids in "Confessions" are monsters devoid of empathy. Not just the killers but even their peers, who are obnoxious brats trying to give their teacher as hard as a time as possible. Even when the teacher tells them about the death of her little daughter they don't care. Only the fact that the killers are among them raises their interest, as that seems a welcome opportunity for bullying.

So there is the message of "Confessions". All the kids are monsters, and the most psychopathic of them deserve to die. And then, I guess, the viewer is supposed to leave the theater with a feeling of satisfaction because the revenge unfolded so well. This ugly little package is all that "Confessions" has to offer below its aesthetic surface. I have to admit that the movie impressed me at first. But then I realized just how corrupt it is. I would take revenge movies of the "Death Wish" kind over "Confessions". Because at least those movies weren't as pretentious as this film that blinds the viewer with a shiny artistic surface to make them believe it was art.

By the way: Hey, directors, leave them kids alone! They are alright. This should be obvious, but I've seen comments from people who now believe that Japanese kids really were like this. Quite stupid of those viewers, but also quite an assholish achievement of a movie.

Rating: 1 out of 10 pretentious slow motion shots.