Paprika


Intense, pschyodelic and inceptionesque.  That is the 3 words I would use to discribe this anime by Satoshi Kon.  

The premise of this film is an invention which allows psychotherapists to enter and analyis patients dreams is stolen and planting the dreams in to other subconscious  making them believe that they are in the dream while still in the awake state.

The dream world is represented by a parade of trippy stereotypes of Japan, ranging from the lucky cats, through to mechanical frogs, walking broken refridgorators and geisha style dolls. To truly appreciate the dream parade you really need to have some knowledge of Japanese myth and culture coupled with how the western world perceives Japan.   Most of the items in the parade are linked to good fortune, wealth, prosperity and fertility.  The broken house hold items showing the throw away culture of the west and the market which Japan has in this arena.

Paprika is the dream avatar of Dr Chiba which allows her to enter the dreams of her patiences and she forms a bond with a policeman who is plagued by an unfinished dream, he later helps Paprika and Dr Chiba overcome the thief of the machine.

The plot of this film does get lost a little in the symbology and aesthetic creation for my liking, I think that the multiple repeatative symbols are perhaps relied on a little too much to try and drive home a message.

There is an interesting part to this film, which intrigues me, which is when Paprika confronts the thief in the dream world she changes in to a series of beings, a sphinx, a mermaid and Pinocchio.   She later changes in to a butterfly.  Each of these beings, while beautiful (with the exception of Pinocchio, I could think of nicer things to be turned in to) hold symbols of manipulation.  The sphinx being a creature with the haunches of a lion, the head of a human and the wings of an eagle was known to  hold the secrets of the pyramids and eat those who could not answer its riddle.  The mermaid, being sirens of the sea, lured sailors to their death on the rocks of shallow waters with their beauty and mystifying songs.  Pinocchio manipulated the world around him to try and convince people that he could be a real boy.  Finally the butterfly…probably the most relevant to this film, especially as there is a scene with Paprika as a butterfly pinned to a table with entemology displays all around of butterflies and she is violently pulled from her body to reveal Dr Chiba.  The butterfly in Japanese folklore is a symbol of the soul, and this film echos the folklore story ( if you’re interested in this look up the story the dream of Akinosuke).  All these images really play on the feeling of the therapists ability to manipulate their patiences. 

As the dream world gets more and more blurred with reality, the parade departs and we are met with the familiar theme which runs through a lot of anime of post apocalyptic Tokyo.  This serves as a stark reminder that we are always on the presipiste of a man made disaster.

If you’re looking for a visual masterpiece, this is a great film, but the story line needs some refining (although this could be down to the translation more than a fault of the film makers).  If you’re an anime fan this is definitely worth a watch.

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