Saturday, November 27, 2010

Confessions (Kokuhaku / 告白)

The Schemer

It's the kind of feeling all over again that makes it a delight to relive moments of a film that's just so steeped with brilliance. It's dark and it's disturbing, a psychological thriller to rival some of the best out there, tackling themes of poetic justice and revenge that's coolly served in perfect tones of subversion, grabbing you by the scruff of your neck with its extended hook from the start and lasting some thirty minutes, before things kick into full gear for a chilling, violent ride that's unflinching in its violence, laced with strong characters filled with perverted motivations all round.

Written and directed by Tetsuya Nakashima and based upon the novel by Kanae Minato, the story's extremely hypnotic and sprawls points of views from multiple characters, each weaved intrinsically with one another and all being uncannily hypnotic in its stylish execution. The hook wraps up everything you'd come to expect from a great thriller, and that riveting introductory classroom scene alone is worth the price of an admission ticket many times over, orchestrating its sound contrast design to perfection where it seems a teacher is unable to control her class, and is nonchalantly attempting to do so until a bombshell is dropped to elicit an automatic silence, and fear.

Takako Matsue (of The Hidden Blade and Villon's Wife fame) plays a schoolteacher whose young daughter was murdered by students identified in her class. Rather than challenging the judge's verdict and knowing jolly well that a juvenile is protected by the law against capital punishment, the plan she devices is so devious that it turns the class upside down turning classmates against the guilty, and yet still hitting them where it hurts most, slowly observing and scheming any exploited weaknesses. Probably the best strategy anyone can adopt when dealing with unspeakable evil, and it is this execution of her plan that forms the remainder of the film told from different perspectives in confessional style (hence the title), where a deeper character study gets presented, while smartly fusing social observations about the restlessness of today's misguided teenagers in wanting recognition and being one up against their peers.

Mothers seem to come into play, and the film provokes thought into this aspect of human nature that's so universal. A mother loses her child, another maintains her protective blindness fending provocative charges against her son, while yet another proudly obsesses with wanting the best from her kid that it becomes detrimental to his development. One knows about the power of Mother's Love and the extent they will go to protect their brood, and here the school teacher's severe loss becomes the catalyst for revenge best served cold, while also becoming pawns in a plan best unraveled when you watch the film.

Nakashima's assured direction keeps you glued to every gorgeous frame thanks to its beautiful cinematography and shots that make it picture perfect, supported by an excellent soundtrack to bolster the dark mood created visually, and I just fell in love with the plenty of slow motion used which brings a sense of calming rhythm that betrays the dark undertones that were constantly brewing in the narrative. There doesn't seem to be a wasted frame or scene in the film, each moving the narrative forward in an engaging manner, keeping you guessing what's the next curve ball to be thrown, and silently rooting for justice in whatever form to be meted out, and on the other hand cannot help but to check yourself since they're kids to begin with, albeit guilty ones whom the teacher chooses a punishment that will resonate deeply throughout their lives, which is obviously a very long road ahead.

The predominant cast of teenagers also performed their roles admirably since one can imagine the kind of thought process they have to go through to play characters who are basically mentally unsound for doing what they did, and frankly these aren't things that are far fetched given notable crimes committed by juveniles here too. The violence can be unsettling here for those with weak stomachs, not so much whether there's plenty of gore put on screen, but psychologically when you're made to crawl under the perpetrators' skins seeing things from their viewpoints.

Confessions lives up to every critical acclaim garnered thus far, and I too love this film enough to put it firmly in my shortlist as the best film of the year, where all the technical elements that make up filmmaking gelled perfectly together with excellent performances all round. A movie gorgeously filmed that justifies why I go to the movies. A definite recommendation!

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