Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
Cast: Takako Matsu, Yoshino Kimura
Every Cloud has a Silver Lining
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.
Reviewed by: Kenji Chan