Saturday, September 6, 2014


Welcome to the dark detention of your soul!

Kokuhaku (aka Confessions) is a 2010 film directed by Tetsuya Nakashima. It's also one of my favorite films.

Now, I like to think I've seen it all.  Over the years, I've seen some pretty crazy films. I've become quite desensitized to standard shock, and bittersweet sentimentality.  Sure, there's lots of exploitative films that still strike a sneaky cord with through relentless violence or sadism; however when there's an emotional center, or primal truth to the subject matter, it cuts deeper.  Confessions I wouldn't call exploitative. It's not so much the physical brutality of the subject matter,  but rather the focus is on the emotions and effects of a horrible act.  This is a film about a more challenging type of uneasiness; emotional horror. A more recent film that struck a similar chord for me was We Need To Talk About Kevin (2013).

However, in 2014, Confessions STILL remains the last film to have truly gutted me. Maybe that just means I've become a soulless husk, or possibly that Confessions took whatever was left in there!

A memorable Class dis-Assembly
What I felt most strongly about happened in the first half hour of the film… and it's not that the rest of the film is any less effective, it's more the initial sting of entering the sorrowful world of the film.  The hypnotic music.  A dirge of distant chords, it all feels so inevitable and simple.  The story opens in a classroom, and a mild mannered teacher gives her a class a lesson they will never forget.  I won't spoil that here.

There's a strange contrast in the teacher's cool, calm delivery and the chaos of the students. Text messages bling like slot machines popping up in the midst of graceful slow motion camera moves. 

Dull sun light blooms from the windows, creates a near silhouette effect on the students and teacher, their faces on the cusp of shadow. It's gloomy classroom, but the reality isn't broken. There's no loss of suspension of disbelief in the style. There's just a heavy cloud in the air.

Perhaps you've already heard the film described as a music video (indeed Radiohead's song "Last Flowers" plays heavily in the excellent score) - and maybe that's the key to how it disarmed me, and sunk into my subconscious. It's all so desolate, dreamy, sentimental.  The film looks and feels as if it's inhabitants are under an eclipsing shadow of an impending doom.  

The first half hour was SO harrowing that the theater seemed to breathe collective a sigh of relief as the opening sequence finally let go.  This was powerful cinema! I had been so thoroughly depleted that I thought that the movie had ended in this brief moment of release. Had it really already been two hours?  It felt like even more. Certainly not in the sense of being bored - it felt as if you'd feel after receiving really bad news. As if drained from a bad argument.  I was getting ready to go.

No credits rolled. Time reverted to it's regular speed. This was just the beginning!

This year  Nakashima returns with World of Kanako - my most anticipated film this year! I've learned to temper my expectations, and the new film does look extremely different, but no less compelling. From the trailer, World of Kanako seems to be much more energetic in it's darkness. Perhaps a shot of adrenaline to compliment the morphine of Kokuhaku!

Can you send Valentines from Hell?
THE WORLD OF KANAKO screening times:
Sun., Sept. 7th, 9:15 PM, ISABEL BADER THEATRE
Tue., Sept. 9th, 11:30 AM, BLOOR HOT DOCS CINEMA
Sat., Sept. 13th, 9:00 PM, BLOOR HOT DOCS CINEMA

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