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4.2 out of 5 stars
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4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 15 May 2017
One of the best films to have come out of Japan in the last 10 years.
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On her final day in school a female teacher informs her class that two of their fellow students have murdered her young daughter. Because they are too young to face legal justice she informs the class that she has decided to punish them in her own way. This absorbing and disturbing introduction is the catalyst to a number of 'confessions' by the main characters of the film.

The film captures and presents the chaos and collective will of the classroom where cruelty appears normal and bulling can be manipulated. The true horror of this film comes not from the scenes of violence but from the exploration of the motives behind the seemingly inhuman acts which we witness. These brutal acts are the result of deep human needs which we all have. What is particularly chilling is that it is children who are behaving in such a cruel manner. I am reminded of Lord of the Flies.

However, it is the teacher, Takako Matsu who is the driving force behind the narrative. She is an unrelenting force of justice and revenge. This film is almost Shakespearean in its depth and meaning. There is sadness in the inevitability of the conclusion. One cannot help but be moved by the storytelling. This is a film that stays with you long after its viewing.
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on 8 December 2011
This really is a very good film, but a very sombre affair compared to the directors previous works (Kamikaze girls, Memories Of Matsuko). Some very nice twists and turns with a good solid story and quality acting to back it all up.

If you like the wackyness of K-Girls and Memories this may not be for you as the subject matter combined with the darkness of the filming, teamed with a music score featuring some rather depressing tracks by Radiohead & The XX, this can be a little overwhelming and possibly upsetting to some tamer viewers.

I really can't say much without giving anything away, but if you're an avid film lover you should really see this, I was very impressed by the film. Everything just works so well together, and for the most part it keeps you second-guessing as to what is going on.
This is definately his most mature work to date and I don't really think he could do something like this again.

On to the ending, all I can say is Why? Its maybe 6 or 7 minutes too much, we know whats happened, we get it, just end the film. It didn't fit in to the tone of the film, way too over the top, and quite frankly made me think the film had ended and I'd inadvertently flicked on MTV where some Emo-rock band music video was playing.
Just because I thought the ending spoilt what I would call an absolute corker, I'd say it was a 7 and half out of 10, but really if you stopped the film a good 5 minutes from the end (pretty much when you find everything out, piece everything together, and feel the film has finished) it could easily be a 9 out of 10.
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on 16 March 2011
Confessions is the type of film that lingers with you long after a viewing. Typical of Japanese cinema it is clever, though provoking, witty, controversial and thoroughly refreshing compared to the typical output of western cinema.

Telling of teacher whose daughter was murdered by her students it follows her ultimate revenge on two students who are too young to face legal justice. Taking matters into her own hands the revenge she inflicts is far sweeter than any prison sentence.

Focusing on different characters and their own mini confessions the people in this film are surprising and original. There is no good and bad and you find you must take sides either with a sorrowful yet hate filled teacher whose daughter was murdered or a disturbed yet lonely school boy who has become a murderer. For me the choice was easy...

Directed by Tetsuya Nakashima, whose other films include Kamikaze girls and Memories of Matsuko , Confessions is a step into a far darker world than any of his previous films. This is not a comedy like the others and it is not filled with ornate sets and vivid colours and costumes. However it is beautifully directed and has a wonderfully haunting soundtrack featuring artists as varied as J Pop girl group sensation AKB48 to little known British indie group The XX. The subtlety of Confessions shows that Nakashima is truly progressing into one of Japan's best directors, he can do the funny flashy stuff and now shows another serious and sensory side to his work.

This has to be one the best Japanese films I have seen in ages (and I've seen a lot!!!) and it's one of the few films where witnessing the destruction of one life brings a happy smile to your face.... justice is served!!!!
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on 3 January 2013
I saw this film on a late night as I was channel hopping round a mates as insomnia had hit me; and by chance flicked onto film four, had missed most of it; and didn't finish it; But from what I saw I thought it was worth getting. So next day typed away on Amazon found the film ordered it. got it. watched it. and here I am :)
I absolutely loved this film; it was clever intricate; ok it was a bit artsy; but a good story; the acting was first rate and the western themed music coming from Radiohead The XX suited the plot. Though not to sure you can say the film was loaded with realism. but who cares this film is not a documentary it is not about real life. Though bullying is seen through out and can show you how bullying can affect people.
everyone should watch this film; yes I know some people don't like watching subtitled films. But that shouldn't stop anyone from giving this film a try.
I'm becoming more and more of an avid fan of Asian film making from Korean movies to Japanese movies. Does make a change from the tripe we get from Hollywood (at times)
this film of twisted revenge from a teacher to two of her pupils; appears twisted but leaves you at the beginning wondering if this revenge was justified or was going to work; but as you carry on you see the extent and honestly if she was my teacher I wouldn't be scared of being a teacher's pet as making her angry would lead to bad things :)
the twisted nature is reminiscent of Oldboy. But on a different level.
the film is beautifully shot even with the dark overtones of the story;
If your a fan of Japanese movies then this is well worth a watch. the blu ray release is nice..
two discs the film being on Blu ray disc and the specials features being on disc 2 which is DVD.
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on 16 April 2011
I continue to count Asian filmmakers as the bravest and most compelling working in cinema today. As Hollywood continues to withdraw into a bunker of blandness, taking almost no chances, Asian directors regularly push the boundaries of cinematic convention in new, dynamic and often delirious directions. The latest home run comes from Japanese director Tetsuya Nakashima. Cult Japanese writer director Tetsuya Nakashima follows up his critically acclaimed hits "Kamikaze Girls" and "Memories of Matsuko" with something considerably darker in the form of Confessions. The film is the year's best, at least for those with the stomach for its candy coated cruelty and soul crushing darkness. A tense, impeccably structured piece of story telling that throws harsh light on the very worst of its characters' broken souls, it grabs the viewer right from the start, with easily the year's most gut wrenching opening scene - which it then proceeds to top, time and time again, through to its nasty conclusion.

Based upon Kanae Minato's award winning debut novel and dealing with themes of bullying, revenge and savage murder, the film is an exceptionally cruel affair, all the more so thanks to Nakashima's typically idiosyncratic approach and gorgeous visuals. The film is essentially an ensemble piece, revolving around Takako Matsu as Yuko Moriguchi, a teacher whose three year old daughter is found drowned in the school's swimming pool. As she reveals at the start of the film when announcing her imminent retirement, she knows the identity of the two killers, who are in fact two 13 year old teenage boys from her middle school class. With the police having dismissed the case as an accident, she puts into motion an intricate plan of revenge and psychological warfare designed to utterly destroy their lives and to force them to realise the impact of their actions.

It shouldn't be too much of a surprise to hear that "Confessions" is a film which defies genre expectations and which refuses to play out along conventional lines. Whilst the subject matter is considerably darker than his last previous films, the film is immediately recognisable as being in Nakashima's style, and it should be remembered that prior to the success of "Kamikaze Girls", he had tackled grim material before with "Beautiful Sunday", and bullying with "Happy Go Lucky". Here, he delivers what is certainly one of the bleakest and disturbing films of recent years, revolving entirely around human weakness, arrogance and cruelty. The film begins with incredibly intensity as Yuko delivers a shattering speech to her uninterested class, which immediately thrusts the viewer into uncomfortable and unknown territory, as she not only announces the identity of the two killers, but proceeds to make it clear that she herself is about as far as from a revenge seeking heroine as it is possible to get.

Technically, the film is spectacular. The editing is intricate and intoxicating, the soundtrack full of Radiohead, The xx, the Japanese noise band Boris and other pop and indie rock tunes that fit in perfectly. The cinematography looks like it was shot by the BBC's natural history documentary division, and the direction is impeccable and every single scene demands and holds your attention. Over the course of the film, writer/director Nakashima focuses on a multitude of people who, in one way or another, were involved in (or affected by) the daughter's death. Since this exploration involves the killers themselves, the film enters some very evil places, unflinchingly exploring the darkest recesses of the human psyche. Yuko's vengeance is made all the more gut-wrenching because she knowingly relies on these same human flaws to facilitate the unwittingly collusion of the young killer's contemporaries in her final act of revenge. I've never seen a film like Confessions. Nakashima in my opinion sets a new benchmark with Confessions that I will subsequently measure all horror and revenge films against. One thing's for sure, this one won't get remade by Hollywood.

They don't have the guts.
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on 5 September 2016
I’m somewhat bemused to see Nakashima Tetsuya’s 2010 Japanese junior high school drama Confessions (Kokuhaku) so highly rated both here and elsewhere. It is part of a trend of films centered on violence in Japanese schools which can be traced back to Kinji Fukasaku’s notorious 2000 Battle Royale (ripped off by Quentin Tarantino for the character of Gogo Yubari in Kill Bill) and remains consistent with the stylistic overkill inherent in this type of film. Wall-to-wall rock music (Radiohead mixed with two Japanese bands, The Xx and Boris) overlays flashily edited visuals resulting in what is in effect a 106 minute pop promo video. The film has clearly been constructed on a computer program (replete with completely unnecessary CGI effects) with acting performances being hacked apart by rapid editing to the extent that we can’t really comment on how good they are. Zero characterization combined with this hip ‘style’ makes the film as Mark Kermode says, ‘virtually impenetrable on an emotional level.’

All of which is a shame for underneath the technological overkill lie issues within Japanese society which are in dire need of proper address. The spat of films focusing on violent incidents in Japanese schools illustrates that in reality everything is pretty far from OK here. I have worked in Japanese schools for over 20 years and can verify that the extent of violence, bullying, restlessness and complete breakdown in discipline shown in this film does indeed exist. This may surprise many of you who think of Japanese kids as simply polite and obedient. Think again. Most obviously in the spotlight are extreme incidents like the girl who beheaded her friend because she made disparaging remarks about her appearance on a social media website, the kid who impaled his classmate’s head on the school gate, the boy who killed his mother, severed her head, put it in a plastic bag, put the bag beside him on the floor of a video arcade where he played games for a while before giving himself and the bag to the police. Underneath these extreme examples runs the everyday unruliness of many schools here. In the last year in my area a junior high school had to be closed early on several occasions because teachers couldn’t control the kids. During tests students lay down in the corridor, throw burning toilet paper rolls out of windows and set off fireworks in their classrooms. When the city mayor visited the school he was pelted with tennis balls. Police regularly patrol the area by day while we hear the kids riding with bosozokku motorcycle gangs by night. Bullying is rife, teenage suicide is common and it has reached the stage where in order for kids to get any kind of education at all they have to go to expensive private cram schools to fill the holes left by the lack of teaching going on in their own schools. There exists the phenomenon here of ni-nen byou or ‘second grade sickness’ that acknowledges that kids are at their most difficult when they are in the second grade of junior high school. Recently kids are starting to turn nasty even earlier than that with many elementary schools resembling zoos to a large extent. On the whole the government authorities play down the situation, largely ignoring it so that when extreme examples which can’t be ignored do hit the headlines they are turned into media sensations which if anything inspire kids to be even more violent.

On the face of it Confessions does present many of these issues. Junior high school teacher Moriguchi Yuko (Matsu Takako) kicks off the film by announcing to her homeroom the news that her four year old daughter has been killed by two of their number and the film charts how she exacts her revenge knowing that the juvenile courts will not punish the culprits severely enough. The film is all plot and it would be wrong for me to reveal anything more than this basic premise. The events are organized under the heading of various ‘confessions’ from the key students involved as well as Moriguchi. Unfortunately this is not upheld rigorously and various events keep imploding from varying conflicting perspectives to make for a veritable mess. In the densely edited mélange we can see the teacher has lost her classroom, the kids are busy playing with their cellphones, reading manga, picking on each other both verbally and physically. Porno and virtual video games along with violence-promoting websites make up the 2D world all the kids seem to live in. The blame is laid accurately if somewhat simplistically at the door of the parents – over-protective monster mothers and weak or entirely absent fathers. Here one boy is pampered to the point where he lacks all self-confidence and is easily used and abused by another classmate. Another boy is abandoned by his mother and his violence is explained by a mama-com (Oedipus complex). Another boy sees that the media take more notice of kids who rebel than kids who succeed academically and so plans accordingly. Another is inspired by a media case into preparing to poison her whole family. Other issues skated on are the appalling ignorance kids have of AIDS and how it spreads (to this day I know schools continue to tell kids that AIDS is brought into Japan by foreigners as if Japanese sex tours to Bangkok don’t exist) and the complete lack of protection provided for teachers who are at the complete mercy of monster parents and their spoilt brat progeny.

All of this flies past us, but none is given a properly thorough treatment. Indeed where we should be presented with these themes in a framework where we care for the characters so that we are moved into deeper involvement, Nakashima turns the issues into mere entertainment with a superficial treatment which is high-octane razzmatazz and little more. It is claimed that the film is closely based on Minato Kanae’s novel, but I seriously doubt if the novel is as shallow. Minato was a 30 something housewife turned first time novelist when she wrote it and I imagine she has much more sympathy for Moriguchi than we see in this film. Crucially we are never allowed to feel her grief or be drawn into her fantastical revenge. The big themes are all ticked off and duly noted, but for Nakashima nothing is more important it seems than the pseudo-dramatic CGI clouds looming ominously over the school or the ludicrous equally fake explosive finale. One day somebody (Kore-eda Hirokazu perhaps?) might make a film which tackles the frail state of the Japanese education system properly. Sadly Confessions isn’t it. Even as a straightforward thriller it fails, the cardboard cut-out characterization making Brian (Carrie) De Palma of the 70s seem a subtle master of psychology in comparison.

Third Window’s presentation of this film is exemplary. The visuals and the sound are both crisp and clear. There is a second disc of extras which as labelled might appear to be two separate films (‘“Final Confessions” by Tetsuya Nakashima’ and ‘”Real Confessions” by students’), but they are not. The first is a 70 minute making of documentary which is rather good. The second is simply a series of interviews with the child actors involved.
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on 7 October 2015
One of the most shocking and powerful dramas I ever seen.
Confessions is the slow, inevitable and focused process of revenge adopted by a teacher who was the victim of an abuse.
But her cold-blooded approach, although reflected in the overall mood of the film, does not make it algid in its unfolding of the story, where, instead, the internal struggle between opposite human feelings (mercy and hate, forgiveness and survival) produce an increasing sense of drama that, at the end, really tears you apart.
A truly fantastic film, not so extreme as other japanese titles, but equally if not more compelling.
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on 3 May 2012
Led by an excellent performance from Takako Matsu, the story follows a school teacher who is convinced that her daughter was murdered, and is driven to ensure that the guilty are brought to justice.

The build-up towards the stunning conclusion is chilling, precisely slow but never boring. The film is rather structured as a set of character studies, and paints an extreme image of what human beings are capable of under copious amounts of pressure, regardless of their age. There are striking images in the film to convey emotion where words are unspoken, and while the teacher is resolute in her mission, there seems to be an undercurrent of her longing to return to innocence.

In a summary, this is one frightening and intense film, not to be missed.
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on 3 January 2013
After school teacher Yuko's daughter is killed by two of her students, she returns to the classroom to seek her revenger.
Told as confessions from the characters through classroom speeches, diaries and phone calls; this story is predominantly told in the past tense. That is, until Yuko talks us through the finale while on the phone to 'Student A', her daughter's main killer.
Confessions is stunningly shot, and every single second of screen time holds enough emotion to carry any normal film. The soundtrack is more than fitting with experimental Japanese band Boris lending their skills to 99% of the film and dare I say, bringing some extra emotion to an already intense film.
This is one of those films which doesn't give you any time to think about anything other than the story. From beginning to end it's as gripping as Neil DeGrasse Tyson telling you about the time he once escaped a black hole.
Nothing was missing from this film, but at the same time, nothing needs to be added. It's about as good as films get these days.
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