Japanese murder mysteries have tended to be stylised and slow. “Confessions” is a fast-paced thriller that defies mainstream conventions in a lot of ways.
For starters, you know whodunnit pretty early in the story. The device used here is an exploration of events from the point of view of each of the characters. While not original, each section does throw further light on the the reasons for the child murder at the heart of the plot.
Class B is finishing Middle School, so most of our protagonists are about 13-years-old. Somebody in the class has killed the four-year-old daughter of the class teacher, on school premises although this death was declared an accident by the police.
There is much richness of texture here and the perspectives peel off each layer of the truth, as if an onion is being gradually stripped down.
You may recognise elements of “Rashomon” and “In Cold Blood”,
I haven’t read the Kanae Minato novel on which this is based, but Tetsuya Nakashima’s tight direction feels novelistic, in that you spend a leisurely spell in each character’s motivation before moving ahead in time. Nakashima co-wrote the screenplay with Minato so there is a real coherence between the form of the tale and the visual sensibility.
Takako Mitsu plays the grieving mother determined to exact revenge and she is truly excellent.
Bullying in schools, the alienating effect of technology and – here’s an old chestnut – the neurotic and absent mother all play roles in teasing the viewer about what the conclusion might be. It’s a doozie of an ending and severely discomfiting.
What makes people do bad things? You won’t find full and satisfactory conclusions here. You are reminded of the Bulger murders and of much press publicity on how we sanctify the role played in society by children while knowing that some little darlings do dreadful things and that kids can be cruel.
There were only about 30 people in the Stratford Picturehouse audience and that’s disappointing, given that I believe this picture deserves to be seen by many people.
I am inclined to offer a significant reward to any filmmaker who blames workaholic and absent dads for the flaws that emerge in children. But then I believe we all should take full responsibility for our own actions and I am aware of how old-fashioned that seems, in this age of blaming others.
If you are interested in crime thrillers, do see it. There is a shockingly effective sub-plot about HIV and AIDS and that pulls together quite a lot of strands of the movie.
The music is all in English and very effective in creating the required moods. I have no idea if the subtitles are good or not as my Japanese only extends to about 50 phrases for tourists that will impress restaurant staff. Subtitles seemed to match body language and action relatively well.
Japanese schools appear not to be obsessed with educational psychology. Psychologically-inclined students of Piaget should see this as you will have a great deal to rant about at your next dinner party. Do invite me as I am up for that chat.