Confessions/Kokuhaku (2010)


Confessions (2010)I’ve realised recently that I am having a growing love for Japanese cinema, I know being in Europe and an artist I should like the works of Francois Trouffaut, Jean Luc Goddard and Jean Renoirbut they just don’t fit with me at the moment. I think Studio Ghibli has a lot to answer for really, taking the animation route into the Japanese world of cinema which has recently lead to Akira Kurosawa and his relationship with western cinema. I will probably come full circle in a few years to the discover in my own time the others auteurs. Which leads my latest find from the country Confessions (2010) which sees a teacher exact her revenge on school children.

I kept thinking that such a film would never be made in the west, due to the subject matter and the cultural mindset which we have over here. The violence is not the problem for a possible translation. The nearest we probably have is Taken (2008) (I say that very loosely) from the parental point of view and for the children involved Boy A (2007) which focused on child killer Jack Burridge.

What starts off as a normal day in the classroom form teacher Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsuwho has decided to leave her job. But before she goes she decides to leave a much lasting impression on the students. Beginning with a little known law that states that children aged 14 and under cannot be held responsible for a crime, even murder (Over here in the U.K. I believe the age is 10) which means they can get off scot-free, or held under a supervision order. In the case of the teachers daughter as we find out, who is killed at the hands of two of her students, named only A and B for now. The teacher really has nothing to lose really in telling them the story, she has lost her daughter which is far more than they can comprehend in their short lives.

The events surrounding this horrific and calculated Murder by two boys, one intelligent and after the attention of his mother who abandoned him, and another who is perceived as weak and naive are told from all three perspectives, before during and after the event. Life seems to go on for everyone, with the added knowledge that the two boys may have HIV, causing them to go off in very different directions.

Both child actors deliver exceptional performances, one Naoki Shimomura (Kaoru Fujiwara) falls into a state of depression, making his mothers life unbearable, becoming violent and angry all the time, unable to cope fully with what has happened. Whilst Shuya Watanabe (Yukito Nishii) stays in school, trying to live with what has happened as best as he can. Whilst the rest of the class hold him in contempt for what he did, fearing what he has become both socially and medically, a danger wrapped in fear and bullying. 

The confessions from all three, the mother and the young killers is profound and shocking, you never know what is going to happen next. You can more understanding of the two boys. Whilst the new form teacher Yoshiteru Terada (Masaki Okadatries to reach out to the now home-schooled Naoki believing his has the flu, going out of his way to reach out to this disturbed young man who behind the closed doors of home is a frightened and dangerous individual. Making his mothers life hell, trying her best to love and understand her changed son who only months ago smiled, now a filthy mess who constantly cleans the house in fear that she too will contract HIV. Not knowing how it’s really contracted.

Whilst Shuya Watanabe has a far different situation, a self-proclaimed child genius who wants to be recognised for his achievements. Not just by the world but his mother. The criminal mastermind of the plot to kill a four-year old girl, wanting the medias attention. In the end just another messed up child wanting to be loved goes horrible wrong.

The dark twist at the end sees a form of justice being handed out by the teacher who has been pulling all the strings, never really leaving their lives. Watching on from a distance. Unable to move on with her life, consumed with grief her life is devoted to revenge on these two boys, still really innocent to act they have really committed. Making a powerful film that lingers in the gloomy world of revenge. Darkly atmospheric at every turn from the point of view of the students who don’t really understand what has happened. There’s nothing quite like this over here in the U.K. or Hollywood where I get the rest of my film fill, which makes it stand out. A truly original story which takes some beating when you think of other revenge film.

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6 responses

  1. You almost have to go out of your way to see anything made elsewhere it seems … and a lot of it is great. Language is the barrier it seems.
    (I’m reminded of those horrible Italian Spy movies with the terrible dubbing that were made during the James Bond craze in the sixties) Sorry.
    Yet a good film like the initial Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – can be dubbed and you don’t even care or recall that it was dubbed later on, It was just good.
    Not sure why they made the second one? it was good too, but I can only think they thot there was a problem with the first one not being in English … ??? *shrug*

    May 15, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    • I think language is a perceived barrier for me. If the stories good an audience will pay attention. Going back to early cinema, it relied partly on inter title, forcing you to read. If anything its more engaging as you have to read each line to stay with it. I’ve not seen any of those spy films. Only a few spaghetti westerns, which I can tell is really obvious, but doesn’t really matter.
      Shamefully I’ve not seen “The Girl”, one to add to the hit list of films to watch. I think somethings just work and others don’t like when Studio Ghibli films are dubbed you can’t really tell as they pay close attention to mouth movement. It’s the care by the distributors of foreign films to make them work.

      May 16, 2014 at 11:23 pm

  2. It’s must almost be an artform to translate the original dialogue to another language accurately – and then sync it with actors. Some of the translations must be pretty interesting.

    I prefer sub titles to most syncing though – but I have seen a movie or two where the syncing was very good. But that’s rare.

    Speaking of Spaghetti Westerns … did you know that Leone filmed the Dollars movies without sound !!??? then dubbed in all the dialogue (or at least most of it) and sound effects afterwards!? Hard to believe … but evidently true.

    May 17, 2014 at 12:20 am

    • Yes I prefer subtitles, I’ve caught another Japanese film which was dubbed, they did a great job once again. With subtitles it shows more of a respect and really shows your interested (without learning another language).

      I think i did hear something like that, I thought he filmed them all speaking their own language and dubbed for each language. At least with his and other spaghetti westerns, its all part of the fabric of the genre, you expect the dodgy dubbing. I wouldn’t have it any other way really.

      May 17, 2014 at 9:18 am

  3. Yes … strangely it didn’t seem to affect the quality or enjoyment of the movies. But once you realize how it was done it does affect your experience a bit. Must have been a strange experience for for the actors – with everybody speaking a different language – and you having to react to dialogue that you don’t completely understand.

    Didn’t stop the Dollars though .. or Dinero …depending on which Fist you’re using.

    May 17, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    • It’s slightly off-putting when you’re watching it but it soon wears off. Would have been an experience to be on the set with all those languages going on at the same time.

      May 17, 2014 at 4:44 pm

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