By Agnieszka Flak
VENICE (Reuters) - The courtroom is not where you find the truth, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda shows in his legal drama "The Third Murder", which premiered at the Venice film festival on Tuesday.
The movie, called "Sandome no satsujin" in Japanese, is one of 21 films from around the world competing for the Golden Lion, which will be awarded on Sept. 9 after days of screenings, parties and red carpet glamor on Venice's Lido island.
"Talking with some lawyers ... they told me that the court is not the place where you actually search for the truth. This was the starting point of my project," Kore-eda told journalists.
It tells the story of attorney Shigemori, played by Masaharu Fukuyama, who takes on the defense of murder-robbery suspect Misumi, portrayed by Koji Yakusho, who previously served jail time for a murder he committed 30 years earlier.
The case appears quite straightforward, especially after Misumi voluntarily admits his guilt.
But as Shigemori digs deeper, doubts soon emerge.
The court case is concluded but the truth is never revealed, raising questions about the legal system and whether it is right that some human beings are asked to judge others - questions that go largely unanswered.
"I thought that the most correct thing to do as a director was not to give an answer because there isn’t an answer," he said. "One just has to think about the choices, the choices of the character in that particular instance."
Most of the key scenes are set in an interview room in jail, where Shigemori interrogates his client, sitting opposite him with only a glass wall between them.
Kore-eda said that what at first seemed a very static setting soon turned out to be a great way to emphasize the emotional turmoil of the two characters, especially as their physical movements are limited.
Unlike a regular crime story, which starts with a mystery that is resolved as the story unfolds, Kore-eda sought "to give this idea of ambiguity, of vagueness that the lawyers themselves perceive ... once the verdict has been handed down."
"So they remain in that sense of uncertainty and vagueness, and it is my hope that the public, the viewer, would remain with this sense of vagueness," he said.
(Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Hugh Lawson)