by Abby Ho, Amanda Low, and Rose Ho
A newly developing piece of technology called the DC Mini allows psychologists to enter their patient’s dreams for therapy. When prototypes are stolen, Atsuko Chiba and her alter-ego, Paprika, jump into the visually stimulating dreamspace to find the thief before consequences affect both the real world and the dream world.
(Warning! Spoilers ahead!)
Rose: What did you think of Paprika?
Amanda: I loved the play on imagery.
Rose: I found it visually intriguing and well-done but plot-wise an uninteresting mess.
Abby: I thought it was a little overwhelming but I loved the visuals. It reminded me of Inception, Surrealism, and Takashi Murakami’s artwork.
Amanda: Have you seen the “Every Frame a Painting” video on Satoshi Kon? I love his breakdown and explanations of Kon’s editing. It made me pay more attention to Paprika.
Rose: What did he say about Kon’s editing?
Amanda : He said that Kon’s editing is incredibly fast. He uses many different types of cuts too. Like the opening scene where she dives into the skater’s shirt and it cuts to a new scene, very impressive.
Rose: Cool. I loved how they represented dreams as constantly changing from door to door and movement to movement.
Abby: That made me think about the blend between dreams and imagination.
Amanda: Another theme in Kon’s movies is about living double identities.
Rose: Yes, there were lots of doubles and couples in this movie. Chiba and Paprika, Detective Konakawa and his dead friend, Tokita and Himuro, and Chairman and Osanai.
Amanda: Rose, you said that the plot was uninteresting? (if above is removed, edit this to fit flow better)
Rose: Yes, it was chaotic but not in an interesting or engaging way. Also, some parts were unsatisfactory or corny, I thought.
Amanda: Huh, I see. I think it’s true that what really engaged me was the editing and visuals. The plot was secondary.
Rose: Like the main conflict was confusing until the reveal, which turned out to be kind of unimportant and then the bad guy was defeated in such a strange and unsatisfactory way.
Abby: I agree, I felt like I didn’t have to try so hard to understand the plot but the visuals I had to work a lot harder to understand.
Rose: Such gorgeous and intriguing settings and symbolism. But also creepy/uncanny at times. Basically anytime there is a doll or clown or robot.
Amanda: I just really loved the symbolism at play. Especially when trying to interpret dreams, we tend to try to understand it by symbols. For instance, all the blue butterflies, and Osanai pinning Paprika like a butterfly.
Rose: They recurred a lot. Wasn’t sure of the meaning.
Amanda: It was representative of how he felt towards her. Osanai was OBSESSED with Paprika, wanting to capture her like he did with the rest of the butterflies on his wall. It’s a powerful metaphor!
Rose: There’s also some strange pop culture references floating around this movie. Like with Tarzan, circuses…and maybe also Lolita?
Abby: Yeah, it felt very within Japanese culture though and when you start talking about cinema and dreams, I can understand why those references were made.
Rose: I was also intrigued by the scenes where the dream was seen on a big screen in a movie theatre with audience members and popcorn. That sort of voyeurism implied in looking at other people’s dreams.
Abby: Mhm! That was really interesting.
Rose: Even our own voyeurism as we watch this movie.
Abby: That I noticed a lot. How the viewer is just a consistent spectator to the dream. We are basically those with the popcorn…
Amanda: I loved the jumping from space to space.
Rose: Mhmm, interesting. Definitely from part of the dream to other parts, then from dreaming to reality.
Abby: I really enjoyed the space to space jumping! It forced the viewer to just spectate.
Abby: What did you guys think about your dream self being an alter-ego of you in reality? With Chiba and Paprika, and that line where Tokita swallows Chiba and says, “A little bland! Must add spice! How about paprika!”
Amanda: That pun, long con dad joke haha.
Rose: I was like, “Is that why they named her Paprika? To make this one joke?”
Amanda: I find it interesting that Paprika has her own personality.
Rose: Yeah and when she questions Chiba to ask if she’s part of her and not vice versa.
Abby: Yea, the question becomes, “What is your true self?” The movie does mention repressed feelings and emotions.
Amanda: I mean, Paprika herself is probably a symbol of Chiba’s repressed feelings. I just found it kinda scary that she was sentient too.
Abby: Yea, before when she would warn Chiba about going places, I figured it was more like a voice in your head. But when she has her own body and is questioning who’s part of who…
Amanda: That was the “woah” moment for me.
Amanda: Also, can we talk about the line, “Don’t you think dreams and the Internet are similar? They are both areas where the repressed conscious mind vents.”
Abby: They really pushed the viewer to consider if who you are online or who you are in your dreams is the real you. That line reminded me of how people use their statuses to vent about their feelings.
Rose: Also, some people comment some horrible things that they would never say out loud. They basically let their id run free because they think they are anonymous online and don’t face punishment.
Amanda: Oh yea, they think the Internet is a free for all. To some extent, it totally is.
Abby: I like how the dream world mirrors that with it also being unlimited and “free”
Amanda: Speaking of dreams though, I don’t understand the Chairman’s motives exactly… he stops the research on the DC mini to preserve the sanctity of dreamspace. But he, at the end, wants to control it all?
Rose: Yeah, how did he know that he could merge dreams with each other and then reality? Did he even know?
Abby: I don’t think he knew…I think he really wanted to walk and become a perfect human. But because that wasn’t possible in reality, he wished to “rule” the dream world?
Rose: So he just wanted to share dreams with someone who could walk?
Abby: I’m not sure. Because if Chiba has an alternate identity in dreamworld, why can’t he?
Amanda: He wanted to take over the dream world, but that doesn’t sound right coming from the same guy who said dreams shouldn’t be tainted.
Rose: Does only Chiba have an alter ego in the dream world?
Abby: I think Tokita does too. He becomes a robot. That’s how I read it. Maybe she only has an alter-ego because she’s going into other people’s dreams and it’s not her own. In the same way, Tokita is a robot because he’s entering Himuro’s dream.
Rose: Interesting thought. But what about the Detective and Shima?
Abby: Well the Detective was himself all throughout because it was his own dream before it merged with the other peoples. As for Shima…I don’t know.
Amanda: Man, I’m confused haha.
Abby: It’s hard to analyze the plot…because it kind of falls apart on you….
Rose: Hmm, it is quite convoluted and inconsistent…it’s the flaw of the movie. But I really liked the scene with Tokita ordering and eating a million different dishes at the restaurant. I don’t really understand why/how Chiba is in love with him though.
Amanda: Yeah, we don’t get any back story with the two. Is it fair to say it was a cheap way to end that part of the story? That she finally confesses her love and that’s what wakes him up?
Abby: It wasn’t satisfactory for sure…
Rose: Yeah, that’s one of the weak endings I didn’t like. Would you guys recommend this movie to someone else? Even with all its glaring plotholes?
Amanda: Oh for sure. Maybe not for the plot, but the amazing visuals and storytelling modes
Abby: I don’t think it’s everyone’s cup of tea? I would recommend it to anyone who liked Inception.
Rose: Mmm, I love Inception too but I think the badly thought-out narrative and creepy elements (dolls and clowns and creepy skin ripping) outweigh the visual inventiveness. Maybe I’d show them the first 30 minutes of Paprika.
Amanda: Perhaps the plot itself wasn’t perfect (still wasn’t a BAD plot though), but I still think the way the story is told is golden.