Starring: Takako Matsu, Yukito Nishii, Kaoru Fujiwara
Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
Running Time: 106 mins
Confessions is a Japanese film about a schoolteacher who inflicts a shocking revelation upon her students when she seeks revenge on those that were responsible for her young daughter’s death.
Simply put, you’ve never seen a film quite like Confessions before. Featuring an insanely dark story that’s full of surprises and deep intrigue, it’s an engrossing watch throughout, but it hits fever pitch thanks to some exceptionally bold directing from Tetsuya Nakashima that gives it a powerfully unique and relentless atmosphere throughout that’s an absolute marvel to watch for nearly two hours.
But before we get onto the directing, let’s just talk about the story, which isn’t half bad anyway. Kicking off with a mesmerising opening half hour, as we watch a teacher explain to her class the horrors of losing her child, and how she hopes to make the perpetrators pay, the film is full of incredibly dark shocks and surprises right from the start.
And the thing is, as much as the story may seem like a set-up for a dark and intriguing mystery, it’s the complete opposite. We effectively know everything that happened leading up to and immediately after the death of this young girl, so this film is a completely different ball game when it comes to the plot, focusing far more on the terror that unfolds in the long term as the various parties come to terms with the death.
As a result, the story is filled to the brim with darker and darker twists as it becomes more and more unrecognisable to an orthodox plot line. There is still mystery at hand, and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch unfold, but the real brilliance here comes in portraying what is effectively a horror movie as a simply dark and dramatic psychological thriller.
Another bonus here comes from the performance from Takako Matsu. Although she’s not always present in the movie, only taking a central role at two key stages, her impact is enormous. The opening monologue to her students is spellbindingly unnerving, and her ability to be utterly terrifying and yet still win your sympathy at times is exceptional, pulling you in even further to a twisted story that gets scarier and darker as it moves along.
But in truth, nothing about this film would work quite as well without the incredible directing from Tetsuya Nakashima.
Structuring the entire movie in an exceptionally unorthodox manner, by beginning with a half hour opening sequence, and then turning all expectations on their head in the middle and final acts, Nakashima’s style is something truly special.
Above all, the film’s pace is its central hallmark, pushing a bizarrely-structured and complex story along with ease. In fact, Nakashima gives the film such a constantly relentless pace that it begins to pulsate like a rapid heartbeat, banging and banging along for the film’s entire duration as all sorts of madness plays out on screen, but bringing the pace steadily up and up towards the thrilling conclusion.
As well as the pace, however, the way this film looks is dazzling as well. It may have a generally very grey appearance, but that fits perfectly with the clearly subdued insanity and dark drama that’s coming to the surface in this story. Often bathing the screen in greyish (bordering on silver) cinematography, the film has both an incredibly dark yet slick appearance, and it works like a dream in keeping that relentless pace moving while reinforcing the dark depths of the story at hand.
And finally, the plethora of terrifying slow motion here that heightens the level of tension of any scene tenfold is incredible. Whether it’s in a dark and depressing flashback, or just marking the moment of horrified realisation on a character’s face, Nakashima’s use of slow motion in Confessions is the icing on the cake to an exceptionally well-directed film, and sums up the incredible blend of thrilling and pulsating drama with some very deep and subtle horror and tension that makes this film so brilliant.
Overall, I loved Confessions. It has a great story that’s intriguing and unpredictable throughout, as well as a mesmerising lead performance. However, it’s Tetsuya Nakashima’s bold directing style, with an insanely relentless pace as well as simultaneously beautiful and terrifying visuals, that make this film an incredible watch throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.2.