What are the best confessions

Criticism from the FILMSTARTS editorial team
By Ulf Lepelmeier
Tokyo's governor Shintaro Ishihara described the immeasurable natural and nuclear disaster that struck Japan in March 2011 as a punishment for consumer frenzy and the decline in values ​​in Japanese society. He even spoke of a "heavenly punishment" that could have a cleansing effect. And following Tetsuya Nakashima's bitter psychological drama "Confessions", this cleansing is long overdue. With his new work, the director, known for his extremely colorful and visually playful films, paints a disillusioning picture of immoral and aimless Japanese youth. In depressing slow-motion shots, Nakashima portrays the youth of a middle school as an attention-seeking pack, acting without mercy and obsessed with cell phones and social networks. Presented with audiovisual brilliance, painful confessions from students and teachers paint a cryptic picture of a generation that seems to have lost faith in the future.

The 7th grade of a Tokyo middle school is annoyingly loud and is dancing on the face of its hard-working class teacher Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu). She looks over all the debauchery with the patience of an angel and distanced courtesy. Nobody listens to their words, students leave the room at will - the state of chaos is everyday life here. And then that: Yuko reports in a calm voice that two students in this class murdered their little daughter Manami. In front of all classmates, she spreads the atrocity of class leader Shuya Watanabe (Yukito Nishii) and Naoki Shimomura (Kaoru Fujiwara), whom she only describes as students A and B in her remarks. And Yuko has sworn revenge - the HIV contamination of two milk packets is just the beginning ...

Director Tetsuya Nakashima ("Memories of Matsuko") remains true to his distinctive style of staging the greatest drama in highly aesthetic images. "Confessions" plays again with various visual forms including a musical scene, but its mood is more stringent and, above all, darker than the director's previous works. Based on the half-hour opening monologue of the teacher, further confessions and considerations follow, which outline the background to the violence and thus result in a complex web of stories composed of different perspectives. The colorful color palette, daring genre jumps and exuberant, fun dangling are a thing of the past for Nakashima - black and white tones predominate in "Confessions" and the slow-motion effect is developing into the central aestheticization tool.

Both visually and in terms of content, the grueling confessions are highly stylized. With the greatest meticulousness, Nakashima visualizes, for example, how milk, water and, over time, more and more drops of blood hit surfaces, thus creating an ominous, intoxicating rhythm. The minute slow-motion sequences are interrupted again and again roughly by fast-cut scenes or mobile phone displays. Despite the throttling of rapid changes in style and mood, "Confessions" still offers a cornucopia of visual extravagance compared to the director's oeuvre and comes up with some reminiscences of the Japanese horror genre as well as a strong soundtrack that ranges between The XX and Radiohead.

The actors breathe life into the over-the-top staged film - above all Takako Matsu as Yuko Moriguchi, who devises dark revenge fantasies behind her polite facade. In her irrepressible will to retaliate, the teacher recalls the protagonist in Chan-Wook Park's "Lady Vengeance". The talented young actors Yukito Nishii and Kaoru Fujiwara give their students A and B a remarkable multi-dimensionality. Yoshino Kimura, mother of students, is also strong B suffered a tour de force, but at the same time reveals a frightening side in her striving for perfection.

The contrast between innocence and slyness, blooming beauty and abysmal destruction as well as hectically cut scenes and video clip-like slow-motion shots dominate the film. The picture compositions reveal a world full of contradictions and a youth that fails because of these contradictions. Nakashima takes care not to formulate hasty answers to the problems of a youth prepared to use violence. His search for clues appears cool and well-styled, almost like a two-hour music video. Above all, the confession sequences - the "Confessions" - reverberate for a long time and shout out a demand for more attention and humanity in the world.
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