Is it just me or are murderous children something of a recurring theme in Japanese cinema? Confessions (Kokuhaku), the latest film from director Tetsuya Nakashima (Kamikaze Girls), is essentially a revenge thriller, and centres on the death of a young girl. The girl’s mother, schoolteacher Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu), refuses to accept that her daughter’s death was an accident and is convinced that two of her students are responsible for murdering the four-year-old. As the culprits are too young to be prosecuted under the Japanese legal system, Mrs Moriguchi takes matters into her own hands, methodically exacting her revenge on Shuya and Naoki.
A more mature film than Nakashima’s previous offerings, Confessions questions the nature of justice and morality whilst more subtly exploring the dynamics of the mother-child relationship. From the perfectly executed opening sequence onwards, the film grabs the viewer and refuses to let go, relentlessly tightening its grip until the dramatic, and somewhat ambiguous, climax. The cinematography is wonderfully original, if a little indulgent, with beautiful contrasts and tasteful use of CGI technology. With contributions from Radiohead and The XX, the soundtrack is equally noteworthy, quietly underpinning the tension and angst of the main feature.
Films which rely so heavily on child actors tend to sink or swim based on the strength of the lead performances. Thankfully, Yukito Nishii and Kaoru Fujiwara play the roles of Shuya and Naoki brilliantly, stealing the spotlight from their more experienced supporting players. The pair are genuinely unsettling and utterly believable as deranged, pre-pubescent sociopaths.
Although Confessions is frequently referenced in the same sentence as Battle Royale, the two bear little actual resemblance aside from the shared theme of blood-thirsty schoolchildren. While Nakashima’s film may not live up to Fukasaku’s cult-classic in many ways, it remains a chilling, highly watchable piece of cinema which will stay with you long after the credits roll.
Special Features: ‘Final Confession’ Featurette, Interview with Nakashima