Imagine Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale. Now, replace most of the physical bloodshed with psychological warfare—a tense game of mental chess in which even the apparent players may become pawns in someone else’s sadistic schemes. That description should give you some idea of what to expect from Tetsuya Nakashima’s Confessions, though there are still plenty of surprises lurking beneath its surface.
As the title suggests, the film opens with a chilling confession: on the last day of the semester, a seemingly meek and mild-mannered middle school teacher admits to her rowdy, disrespectful students that she’s already exacted a terrible revenge on them for their role in the tragic death of her four-year-old daughter. But that’s only the beginning of this dark, twisted, cynical thriller; from there, the narrative spirals off in myriad unexpected directions—bouncing between perspectives, recontextualizing characters’ motivations, and constantly reinventing its own rules. Like A Clockwork Orange, it challenges the audience with difficult moral conundrums, forcing us to carefully consider exactly where our sympathies should lie—assuming, of course, that such questions are even relevant in such an uncompromisingly nihilistic setting.
Featuring a visual style that’s as bold and confrontational as its disturbing themes, Confessions is often hard to watch—which merely serves to make it all the more compelling.