Published Sep 26, 2010Based on a best-selling Japanese novel, featuring a soundtrack heavy with Japanese noise maestros Boris (plus nods to the XX and Radiohead) and also Japan's entry for this year's best foreign language film Oscar, the biggest worry on entering Confessions is that it's going to immediately collapse under the pressure of expectations.
However, Confessions opens forcefully, as a class full of astonishingly noisy, unruly high school students is slowly silenced as it dawns on them that their teacher, Ms. Moriguchi (played by Takako Matsu), isn't discussing school work. Coldly describing the murder of her four-year old daughter by students in the very class, before shockingly revealing her "revenge" upon them, it's a mesmerising piece of cinema, perfectly paced, plotted and polished.
The problem with the film as it continues past the opening section is not that it becomes any less well put together, but that when dealing with the murder of a child by other children — and when using it to comment on Japanese society as a whole — such focus on a polished sheen rather than any sense of reality makes the film ultimately feel f hollow. Even the structure — each section of the film is a person's "confession" and they begin to intermingle as the movie progresses — starts to feel oppressively clever.
If you can stand the sensation that the director is just a little too pleased with himself — thankfully, in this case, self-indulgence isn't accompanied by bloat, the film running an acceptable 106 minutes — Confessions is an interesting rumination on Japanese society with the bite of one of Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected. It's entertaining, but surprisingly, never moving. (Toho Co.)