Adapted from a novel by: Minato Kanae (湊かなえ)
Screenplay by: Nakashima Tetsuya (中島哲也)
Directed by: Nakashima Tetsuya (中島哲也)
A teacher is walking around a noisy classroom, talking to her students in a tone that suggested a kind of boredom and acceptance. It almost seems like she’s rambling, but really, everything she’s saying has something to do with the revelation she will soon be making. Just as class is about to end on this last day of school before spring break, she tells her students, in rapid succession, that she has retired as a teacher, that her 4-year-old daughter was murdered by some of the students in her class, she knows who they are, and she has exacted her revenge.
Adapted from a novel by Minato Kanae, the film is similar to the book in the sense that the story is told through various characters and how they perceive this incident and the world around them. This first “confession” by the teacher, about what she has done to the students responsible for her daughter’s death, sets off various reactions. The film then goes on to show the other “confessions” by the others who have somehow been dragged into this whole murder affair.
Unlike the book, however, the film is a lot punchier, with the different “confessions” by the different characters slipping in and out and about. It’s not always from one person’s point of view, and we don’t always get to hear the whole story from that one person before shifting to the next.
And somehow, that works beautifully for the film. Had it followed the singular shifts between characters, like the novel, the film might have had a much slower pace, which could have given it an entirely different tone. The way it was made, however, with its overall greyish, almost monotone cinematography, the film had a kind of dull pressure of some sort, the atmosphere almost a little claustrophobic.
I had first watched this film a few years ago, and back then, I hadn’t yet read the book. I remember having felt a little lost somewhere in the middle of the film, because of all the jumping around the characters, but the film stayed with me for a long while. This time, after having read the book, I thought I would rewatch the film to see if I could see it with new eyes. And I did. Little details popped out at me, things that I perhaps hadn’t noticed the first time because of the relatively fast pace of the story. The film still managed to deliver a hard-hitting punch, despite my already knowing the plot, and having already watched it once.
Much like the book, the film didn’t focus on the “murder mystery”, the whodunit and whydunit. It focused instead on the individual characters involved, their emotional turmoils and psychological struggles, and I think that’s why this film not only survived, but flourished, through a second session. Knowing the plot took nothing away from the atmosphere.
I read the book only very recently. My thoughts on the book HERE.