Confessions (Kokuhaku): Crime lessons in a bleak coming-of-age tale

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Confessions (2010)

Imagine this: You are a teacher who’ve just discovered that two of your students are responsible for your daughter’s death. Filled with anger and grief, you’re more than ready to take your revenge. But what if the murderers are considered underages (middle school students), and they can’t be punished fairly because the law protects them?

That is the main plot of this Japanese psychological thriller from the brilliant director Tetsuya Nakashima. Confessions aka Kokuhaku, which is adapted from a debut novel by Kanae Minato, takes unfolding mysteries in a movie to a whole new level, like opening a box of intellectual surprises. As the story reveal the major character’s confessions, the more I know about their motives, and made it hard for me to choose sides.

I think Nakashima tries to show how dangerous kids could become if their parents don’t treat them properly. In the era of internet and social media, children are prone to be influenced by bad contents if their parents don’t guide them. As in Confessions, one of the murderers is a neglected kid who is incredibly smart, but turns into a devious criminal because the society (netizens) doesn’t care about his good grades, but cheers to his bad-ass delinquency.

“Nobody taught me that killing people was wrong. Where other kids got read picture books and fairy tales, my mom taught me Ohm’s Law and Norton’s theorum. She only ever talked about electronics,” Shuuya, a 13-year-old genius student who kills innocent people only for his nonchalant, career-oriented mother to notice him.

The setting may resembles ‘Elephant’ by Gus Van Sant, or ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ by Lynne Ramsay. However, both of which focus on teenagers having mental illness and their insane violence. On the other hand, ‘Confessions’ portrays how a teacher explores underaged criminal minds and gives them punishment that serves them right.

The film’s palette are dominated by black-and-grey colours, with clever play on details mostly showcase middle school student stuffs, perfectly blended by dark, engaging soundtracks. The tone, art and theme somehow reminds me of Richard Ayoade’s work in ‘Submarine’. I must say the soundtracks are top-notch and sometimes add cuteness and quirk to bloody scenes. The only flaw is too much slow-motion and repetitive scenes though sometimes effective to deliver emotions.

On the whole, ‘Confessions’ is a bleak, savage and mind-blowing thriller that takes on heavy subjects in coming age realm, with engrossing storylines and arousing life-lesson quotes.

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