Tetsuya Nakashima’s Classroom Confessions

Tetsuya Nakashima’s Classroom Confessions

Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Third Window Films 

Release date: April 25th 2011
Certificate (UK): 15
Running time: 106 minutes

Original language: Japanese with English subtitles

Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
Writers: Tetsuya Nakashima, Kanae Minato

Cast: Takako Matsu, Masaki Okada, Yoshino Kimura

The idea of students becoming killers has remained more or less taboo in western films despite the fact that it’s been happening for the past decades in gun related incidents.

There seems to be reluctance in this sort of screen portrayal, but Japanese director Tetsuya Nakashima bravely tackles the issue, and without the use of guns.


Based on Kanae Minato’s 2008 best selling novel “Kokuhaku“, Confessions begins in a classroom where junior high teacher Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) announces something shocking. Yuko’s daughter, Manami, some years ago, was killed by two pupils in her class and although she doesn’t reveal their names, she refers to them as “Student A” and “Student B”. During the course of her revelation, it becomes clear who the students are and that she wants revenge.

More shocking than the revelation is the confession that she’s injected her dead husband’s HIV contaminated blood into the milk cartons the murderers have just drunk from.


From here, the story splits up into a series of first-person narratives, each one with their own confession and each one darker and more macabre than the last.

In this way, Confessions covers all the bases, making for an unforgettable movie experience that will not only linger in your mind, but also create discussion afterwards. The issue of bullying, bad parenting, ineffectual teachers and child killers are tackled head on, but instead of taking the moral high ground, it presents different perspectives and leaves the rest for you to mull over while the film settles, like the dust and debris after a violent explosion.


Although thematically comparable to Gus Van Sant’s Elephant (2003) which was partly inspired by the high school shootings in Columbine in 1999, it also reminded me of the Jamie Bulger murder case from 1993, both incidents where young lives were taken and families were left destroyed.

There are moments during the film where the suffering of the perpetrators becomes unbearable on an emotional level, as opposed to visual, and this heightens the melodrama effectively while giving us some rarely presented insight into these troubled young lives.

What also surprised me about Confessions was its visual style. The colours are almost drained and we see mostly blue and green tones, it’s only when Yuko shares her memories of her brief time with Manami that the colours come rushing back. This makes for a stark contrast but gives us an idea as well about Yuko’s present life and what she’s lost.


  • 70 minute featurette ‘Final Confession’ by Tetsuya Nakashima
  • ‘Real Confessions’ by Students
  • Interview with Tetsuya Nakashima
  • Theatrical Trailer

Slow motion effects run smoothly with montages and it’s one of those instances where you really see the advantages of high definition; rain drops falling as the children finish school for day, and another scene where a butterfly touches down onto a boy’s finger before flying off again. Tetsuya Nakashima combines it all brilliantly in this film and there’s even a scene where “Last Flowers to Hospital” by Radiohead plays, but there’s also a huge amount of psychological warfare at play here as Confessions advances towards a truly devastating climax.

It is, by all counts, a stunning and thoughtful masterpiece which is also relevant and entertaining. Its performances are impressive, even with its young cast who manage to convey innocence and menace effortlessly.

While we may not always be able to prevent all the horrors which happen in this world, filmmakers and storytellers like Tetsuya Nakashima and Kanae Minato are important because their work helps us to understand and hopefully prevent some of them in the future.

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