Before I go into juicy detail, (yes, there will be graphic spoilers ahead, you are forewarned) let me dish out a few guilty film confessions myself: 1.) I am forever infatuated with psychological thrillers 2.) A layered narrative split into multiple points of view will never fail to win me over 3.) I have a thing for precocious child actors and 4. ) I pay ridiculous amount of attention to cinematography and the use of colors.
Having said all of these, perhaps you could already guess what I’m about to say about this particular movie, and perhaps you guessed right: Tetsuya Nakashima’s Kokuhaku, a 2010 part-revenge, part-coming of age film, just about killed me all through-out and guess what? I bloody loved every second of it.
The lines defining whether a movie falls under the label of horror, gore, suspense or psychological thriller can be inevitably blurred so frequently. Japanese Films, in particular, are well-known for infusing elements from these genres into one which makes them all the more complicated to classify. Hence, their trademark quality of being profoundly disturbing. Kokuhaku, however, strongly establishes itself as a psychological thriller because it focuses on the corruption of young minds leads them to commit horrifying acts of violence. The plot basically explores the nature of juvenile crimes, viewed from the varying perspectives told by its six narrators: a teacher who grieves the death of her daughter, am exceptionally-intelligent boy struggling with Oedipus Complex, a pretty albeit suicidal girl with a shady past, a forlorn transferee yearning for a true friend and a housewife haunted by her incompetence as a mother. You’ve got to give it to the extraordinary editing which makes their character interconnections so naturally depicted, thanks to a consistent story set conveniently in the classic setting of a school.
It’s unexplainable—Japanese schools effortlessly exude that spooky ambience made popular by its essential components: the student uniforms, the rumors and myths bordering the superstitious, and of course, massive bullying. Kokuhaku takes it all further though—this is middle school, illustrated as potential breeding ground for thirteen-year old psychopaths. Japan never fails to bring on the quirks, really. But in a frighteningly good way.
The performances delivered by its stellar cast are also solid and subtle. In most of the scenes they portrayed deadpan faces, as in most films under this genre usually present, but they play the diverse range of emotions so well, taking into account how much maturity was required by their roles and their relative real ages. I gotta commend the kids because they gave extraordinarily effective scenes, whether they were laughing in it, or crying, or laughing and crying at the same time. It’s crazy. It actually made me a tad bit worried about the real psychological state of these actors because they will undoubtedly be affected emotionally by the violence depicted in the film.
Last but definitely not the least, can I just say I’m so stunned by the delightful imagery of this movie? The cinematography is deliciously breath-taking and poetic; it fills my mind with so many thoughts. Sometimes a still-frame of inanimate horror, sometimes a slow-motion of riveting action, every scene is just so rich with metaphors and little symbolisms that visually stimulate me even further.
From what I’ve read about him, Tetsuya Nakashima is popular with his color palette and I couldn’t agree more. The textures of light he applied so delicately are so lovely I sometimes pause just to admire and absorb all of it. Also it’s been very challenging to select screencaps for this review because there are just so many good scenes to choose from. Nakashima just became my favourite Japanese Director, haha. It’s also no wonder this became the official Japanese entry for this year’s Academy Awards for Best Foreign Film.
Bursting with all things odd, this movie is reminiscent of a heartbreaking requiem for the loss of innocence. A closer look at the characters would reveal what they all have in common: their anger is a mirror of their pain, driven by the the lack or excess of that elusive thing by which the world goes round: Love.
To my old high-school buddy Marchy for giving me a heads-up on this film, I owe you one. Thanks. ♥