If you’ve seen and enjoyed Inception, you’ll probably like the film that inspired it in so many ways – Paprika, though obviously both movies tackle themes and ideas that have been well-explored in the past.
And while Paprika is an adaptation, I think you could almost call Inception the same thing, though between the two, one text adapts a novel and the other kinda adapts the aesthetic and some central concerns of Kon’s movie.
All the films directed by the late Satoshi Kon are superb, I reckon – and yep, I’m obviously a fan – and Paprika is no exception.
I tend to think that this one, a surreal psychological thriller, is maybe his peak as a director, even if Millenium Actress is perhaps more heartfelt and I personally enjoy Perfect Blue the most.
But as an adaption of the 1993 novel (a novel I did read but only after seeing the film), I found the movie to be a much more consistent work from top to bottom. I’m unfairly comparing the two mediums here, but sometimes surrealism works better in the visual.
Here’s a synopsis:
In the near future, a revolutionary new psychotherapy treatment called dream therapy has been invented. A device called the “DC Mini” allows the user to view people’s dreams.The head of the team working on this treatment, Doctor Atsuko Chiba, begins using the machine illegally to help psychiatric patients outside the research facility, using her alter-ego “Paprika”, a sentient persona that she assumes in the dream world.
Generally, the use and mis-use of the DC Minis are the crimes that the Doc (and my fav character, Detective Konakawa) must investigate. And because reality and dream is blended so often in the story, they certainly have a tough time of it – stumbling after uncertain clues and unclear adversaries.
But I was hooked for every moment, never quite sure what the characters would face next. And due to that uncertainty around reality, there was heaps of room to bring in something you’ll probably notice me mention more than once on the blog, Intertextuality.
Since Konakawa studied film-making, and his recurring dream relates to that, there are plenty of allusions to classic Hollywood cinema and other texts throughout the film. (And there’s a Monkey reference too!) but it was also fun to see the art of cinema and film-making itself referenced as well.
There’s more to Paprika than its allusions of course, from the themes of identity, obsession, love, memory and the fear of technology – it’s also equal parts creepy and touching (at times).
While you can expect a certain amount of classic anime tropes to appear here, just as many are subverted really well – especially via the supporting cast.
When compared to Perfect Blue (which most folks consider, probably rightly, as Kon’s masterpiece) I think Paprika is not so relentlessly dark. There are more than a few light moments during the film, especially thanks to Paprika herself, but also in part due to the surrealism, which can be equal parts comedic and disturbing.
In terms of a recommendation, I think the R rating (or ‘M’ if you’re in Australia) is still fitting even if they tend to change over the years, so Paprika is not one for the youngest of teens but should impress if you’re into psychological thrillers.
Now, I feel that I haven’t spoken too often about specifics for this review, but that’s quite on purpose – as I don’t want to spoil one of my fav movies too much!