PUBLISHED 22 JULY 2016
YUKO Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) stands before her unruly class with an announcement: she will no longer be their teacher. A cheer roars from the frenzied classroom before Moriguchi continues her announcement: her daughter was killed by two of her students. The class is now silent. CONFESSIONS traps us in Moriguchi’s classroom for the film’s entire opening, spanning a daring 25 minutes of melancholic monologue with brief glimpses of the cloudy, miserable world outside of the equally bleak classroom. Accompanied by a listless soundtrack consisting of The XX, Radiohead and Boris, CONFESSIONS bombards the audience with misery.
Although otherwise protected as minors by the juvenile criminal laws of Japan, Moriguchi makes sure to subtly reveal the identities of the murderers and exact revenge on the guilty students. As a respite from the otherwise clinical white and blue of the film, she injects HIV positive blood into the suspected criminals’ milk cartons. The class gasp and immediately recoil from the murderous duo as the bright red of the blood and discarded milk cartons glisten upon the screen, within seconds the murderers sit alone as if they were biohazards. Isolation also seeps into the cinematography, with dream-like slow-motion shots that present the loneliness of student life in the Japanese school system. Complemented by the backdrop of rainy Tokyo, CONFESSIONS captures the depressing theme of grief that Moriguchi’s monologue sets up.
With her plan now in motion, Moriguchi takes a backseat for the remainder of the film. The audience is left to hear the “confessions” of those affected by her daughter’s death and witness the gradual unhinging of the murderers. While “Student A” (Yukito Nishii) continues attending school, watched over by a clueless new teacher who is oblivious to the other students’ intentional exclusion and bullying, “Student B” (Kaoru Fujiwara) becomes a shut-in, obsessed with his possible acquisition of AIDS from Moriguchi’s revenge. These opposing responses to murder showcase how grief and regret manifest themselves in people, with both responses resulting in isolation and eventual insanity, largely inhibited by the unrelenting cruelty of school children who are hungry for justice.
A film about sadness, loss and isolation, CONFESSIONS presents Moriguchi’s grief as the driving force of her revenge and explores the various ways death and murder affect people as we see the responses of Moriguchi, her daughter’s killers and the people around them. Although it is a slow burner, CONFESSIONS is a cold, despair-filled revenge film that will leave audiences torn between satisfaction and listlessness due to the downbeat tone and subject matter. CONFESSIONS provocatively ends on the mastermind of revenge and her parting words to “Student A” after a shocking climax, encapsulating the intense burden that grief has upon the griever: “This is my revenge; a living hell”.