I was rewatching snippets of a Japanese movie that I had watched about 5 years ago when it was first released in cinemas. The movie is titled Confessions directed by Tetsuya Nakashima. I was interested in watching the film because it was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 83rd Academy Awards. The movie is about this strange plot of a junior high school teacher whose daughter was killed by two of her students, and who sought revenge against those students of hers. The two students of hers were not punished for their crimes because under a certain constitutional provision in Japan, juveniles were protected from being punished under criminal laws for murder. One of the student who killed the teacher’s daughter is a psychopath genius who knows he can get away with murder under those laws and therefore deliberately killed the teacher’s daughter for the fun of it. The two students were ostracized by their classmates for their crimes, and even physically assaulted by some of the male classmates. One of them turned insane from the torment by his classmates. A girl classmate sympathized with the other murderer boy, and sought to befriend him. There was even some romance between the two. She sought to understand his motivations, which was to impress his estranged scientist mother who had always held high expectations of him for intellectual achievement when he was a child. The boy wanted to attract the attention of his mother by doing something newsworthy, even if this amounted to killing someone.
However, the girl herself was killed by this psychopathic boy as well. The boy then decides that he would next kill himself and his schoolmates by blowing up a bomb in the school assembly while he is due to give a speech for being the top student. However, the bomb he had planted failed to go off when he pressed a remote detonator at the end of his speech. He received a call from the teacher whose daughter he had killed. She tells him that she had kept tabs on him, and was aware of his plans. She had defused the bomb and placed it into a box which the boy had kept his various scientific inventions. The boy had intended to take the box containing these items to his mother at her workplace at a research institute upon learning the location of the workplace of his mother. The teacher had actually imposture as the boy’s mother over the internet to inform the boy of the locations of his mother’s workplace. She kept track of the videos uploaded by the boy describing his intentions to blow up the school so as to impress his mother. The teacher told the boy over the phone that she saw the boy taking the box containing the bomb to the mother’s workplace at a time when she wasn’t around, which he angrily threw to the ground and left in anguish when he was told by a fellow staff that his mother was on a honeymoon with a new lover. By now, the boy was in tears at the realization that he could have accidentally killed his mother with his own bomb. The film did an artistic reverse slow-motion take of the blowing up of the workplace of the mother, with a scene showing the mother sitting at her desk and looking at a newspaper cut-out containing a write-up on a scientific prize award won by her son, a gentle tear strolling down one of her eyes, before the bomb blew up on her. The boy collapsed on the floor of the school hall in utter dejection, much to the bewildered and frightened stares of his school mates. The teacher, with the phone still beside her ears, walked up slowly to where the boy was at the scene. The last words of hers to him before the end of the film was “just messing around with you.”
I do like the aestheticism of the film, even though it is quite macabre in nature. However, I struggle to understand what the moral of the story is. All throughout the viewing of the film, I couldn’t find myself having any love for the villain of the show, the psychopathic boy, who killed with impunity and without remorse. Even the girl character who had sought to befriend him in her own endeavor to find out more about what she believes to be a misunderstood character was herself killed. I was also wondering to myself about whether the film’s portrayal of the way the law works in Japan regarding juveniles is true. For one, it seems like the boy and his friend who killed the teacher’s daughter were still able to walk freely in society and attend school as per normal without any form of detention. If it were Singapore, I think the authorities would have had them detained up in a boys’ home, even if they are not charged with murder punishable by the death penalty. But perhaps, Japan’s juvenile laws is based on the assumption that a child below a certain age can never form the requisite intention to murder, and therefore should not be punished in any way for killing someone. My gripe is how much of a devil incarnate the boy is in having a knowledge of this law, and seeking to exploit it to kill innocent people for his own amusement. While the teacher sought to teach a boy a lesson by placing the bomb into a box which was to be sent by the boy to his mother, I can only assume that she did not carry out her plan in the end. Perhaps the ending part where the teacher tells the boy that she was just messing around with him is just a cheap plot twist to add to the aesthetic nature of the film, or perhaps, it can be seen as the magnanimity of the teacher that instead of devastating the boy by actually killing his mother, she sought to teach the boy the importance of life by making the boy realize that as much as he values the life of his mother, he should value the life of others around him as well. I really am not too sure about the point of the ending, but from the way the film had portrayed the boy throughout the film, I don’t think that there is any likelihood of redeeming the boy from his sheer evilness. He seems more likely to find another way to effect his plan to commit mass murder than to change his ways. If it is true that juveniles like him bent on killing people can walk around freely in Japan, I think it is an indictment of the way the law works in Japan, and there should be reforms to ensure that even children at that age are placed in detention so as not to endanger the lives of others in society.