Paprika

Satoshi Kon’s 2006 animated feature Paprika based on a novel of the same name explores ideas of dreams and nightmares, and how the practise of psychotherapy can be integrated to help patients, by letting medical practitioners enter their dreams. Christopher Nolan reportedly took inspiration from Paprika for his box-office smash Inception, and it’s evident in many scenes in Paprika.

The story of Paprika is complex, arguably the animation doesn’t help with deciphering dream sequences and reality, the two eventually literally merging into one. It’s difficult to follow and to understand, it might require a few watches in the knowledge of what will happen. Paprika is visually beautiful, every scene is bursting with colour and activity (probably aiding the disorientating nature of the film). But the themes and ideas which are explored are interesting.

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One of the main themes is that entering dreams can be used as an act of terrorism. The DC Mini prototype developed by the psychotherapists is secreted away from society, the existence of it is confined to a few select people. The idea that dreams are beyond our control, revealing our base desires, sometimes joyous and exhilarating, sometimes dark and twisted. The ethical implications of such an invention are debated, and shown in both lights; used as assistance for patients, but also to exploit victims, shown in a particularly unpleasant rape scene.

Whilst complex and definitely not light viewing, Paprika is challenging and sophisticated. A fine example of anime, a bar set high in the wake of Akira and Spirited Away. Paprika is mesmerising and interesting, it did seem a little short if I’m honest, and I do think there was room for more intricate and slower paced story telling. The anime aspect of the film allows for a much more creative and vivid representation of dreams, the opening title sequence reminded me of the Michel Gondry music video for the Chemical Brothers (Let Forever Be), which coindentally feeds into another film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which again experiments with human memories.

In the wake of Inception, which is the Hollywood dumbed down (yes, Inception is a dumbed down version of Paprika) version of dreams on the big screen. I’ve always been interested in dreams, particularly in cinema, and the trend tends to be a really really naff representation of dreams, which are difficult to relate to and often poorly executed, Paprika defies those trends by creating a visually stunning ride through what appears to be a small segment of a much larger story which Kon wants to tell, you can help but feel slightly short-changed, but nevertheless, Paprika is something you need to see, if not for the beautiful visuals, but for an alternative venture into dreams in cinema if all you have seen is Inception.

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