Archive for May, 2012

#13 Confessions – Dir. Tetsuya Nakashima

Confessions –
A psychological thriller of a grieving mother turned cold-blooded avenger with a twisty master plan to pay back those who were responsible for her daughter’s death 

“Carmen, you watch some of the sickest, creepiest movies, I swear.” – my mother last night as we were watching this.

Okay, in my defence, I don’t like gore and I’m not big on horror or thrillers… but I do really enjoy films that make you think and, personally, I find that a great deal of foreign cinema makes me do just that. Big budget blockbusters from Hollywood seem generically shallow these days; there’s little there but the retelling of old stories we’re all already familiar with, all made pretty. They’re great for entertainment and preoccupying our minds so we don’t need to dig too deep into our psyche but that’s all they’re really good for.

Based on a novel by Kanae Minato, Confessions is a teensy bit gory. Only a little. But it’s manageable. The real horror doesn’t come from the arterial spray of blood on white walls but from the psychological terror of the potential damage humans can inflict. Humans – not just adults but children too. Confessions showcases how our race manipulates, lies and kills in order to cover our tracks or reveal ourselves to the world. It shows how callous and cruel people can truly be when under duress from circumstance and pressure.

The real horror in today’s world is ourselves – and the majority of it is self-inflicted. Confessions attests to that; the pressure of school (you must do well, you must get the best grades, you must be recognised), pressure from parents and friends, bullying and death. These are just a few of the main themes the film deals with in mirroring reality.

The true message behind the film though is one to be worked out on our own. How precious is life? How can anyone even begin to answer that? Perhaps then, the better question would be, how precious is life to each and every one of us? Do some of us hold it in greater esteem? If we, like the female teacher, Sensei Yuko, lost our young child because of someone else’s ego, would we seek revenge? Would we sit by passively? Could we forgive?

On a final note, the acting in this was particularly impressive. Child actors usually go hand-in-hand with happy-go-lucky films, all gravitating towards a Happy Ending. But the children/young-adults portraying a class of thirteen year olds played their roles amazingly – and every single character brought raw, base emotions to life on screen with incredible honesty.


#12 Shin Kyung Sook – Please Look After Mother

Please Look After Mother – Shin Kyung Sook

On Tuesday, on a hunt to pick up a birthday present for my Nana’s 60th, I ventured into Waterstones for a quick look at books before I had to head off for a diabetes check-up at the hospital (not fun, by the way. They treat me like a human pin-cushion). Just looking at books is half the fun these days, mostly because they seem to be so much more expensive than when I was younger. I like to add things to my mental Reading List; books that, were I several thousand pounds richer than I currently am, I would cart home with me after making the woman at the check-out a very happy seller indeed.

I usually stick to the science-fiction/fantasy section but a small display caught my eye. I forget the exact title but there were lots of them around the store; stands with around ten books on them, each for a different award or genre that Waterstones was promoting. I picked up ‘Please Look After Mother‘ from a display that contained (amongst others) novels by Haruki Murakami and Roberto Bolano. Of course, this was an international fiction stand. I felt a little proud that there were authors who – thanks to one of my classes at university – I recognised.

Shin, however, I did not recognise. But I’m a sucker for pretty things so the cover grabbed my attention (as did a small pink novella but I eventually put that one down, though somewhat reluctantly). I ended up grabbing a copy of Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Warbreaker’ and Haruki Murakami’s ‘The Wind Up Bird Chronicle‘ as well as ‘Please Look After Mother‘.

Please Look After Mother‘ is about losing a parent – and then, in searching for her, the mother’s entire family grows to discover more about the woman that cared for them. It’s a book that highlights how a parent truly looks after their child, encompassing empathy, compassion, love and aggravation. No family is perfect and everyone has their qualms with each other but, beneath all the anger and irritation, there is always love.

The novel has been translated into beautifully simple but evocative prose, with each chapter in a different narrative voice, depending on the specific character. With each chapter, Shin builds up the mother’s character, fleshing her out and giving her life, enabling us to see her from every angle and suggesting that it takes a great deal to truly know a person, no matter how close we think we are to them.

Shin’s novel isn’t about finding what you lost, it’s about urging us as readers to recognise what we can lose, before it’s too late. It encourages us to take a look at our relationships and keep hold of what matters most.