Japanese Title: Paprika
Related: Tokyo Godfathers (same director)
Similar: Mind Game
Paranoia Agent (same director)
Perfect Blue (same director)
Millennium Actress (same director)
Watched in: Japanese & English
Length: 90-minute movie
- Mind-bendingly crazy dream sequences rendered in gorgeous, detailed art.
- Keeps you guessing on what is reality and what is a dream until the end.
- Zany music to match the wacky visuals.
- A few questions left with vague answers.
Have you ever seen the 1971 version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder? You remember that scene where Wonka takes everyone on a boat ride through a psychedelic tunnel? Paprika is a feature length version of that. The dreams are surreal, music weird, characters loopy, and it’s all great. Paprika is the last in director Satoshi Kon’s anime films – Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, and Tokyo Godfathers. If you have seen his other works, you know what kind of mind-bending and psychology to expect.
Researchers have created a device that allows therapists to enter a patient’s dreams to find the source of anxiety or neurosis. One such therapist uses her red-haired alter ego known as Paprika to explore the dream world. However, when a device is stolen and patients’ dreams start grafting onto the minds of therapists, dreams become indistinguishable from reality. Paprika must navigate the dream world to figure out how it started and who is responsible.
Though this may sound similar to Christopher Nolan’s Inception, they are far from alike outside of the common narrative device – dreams. Where Inception is grounded in the reality of oneirology (study of dreams) to craft a thrilling heist film, Paprika uses the imagination side of dreams where anything and everything can happen free of oneirology. Inception had strange things happen, certainly, but nothing truly weird. Paprika on the other hand, is nothing but weird. There is a parade of fridges, frogs, lucky cats, anatomy mannequins, the Statue of Liberty, Buddha, and whatever else they thought of, all in honour of a loony old man whose body fat absorbs baby dolls. Need I say more? In Paprika, the dreams have no rules, no boundaries, no logic. They are insane and tons of fun.
Paprika requires that you pay attention, particularly to the scene transitions, or you may miss crucial information that establishes what is dream versus what isn’t and risk losing the plot. Unfortunately, even with focus, some of the important questions remain unanswered. However, that doesn’t interfere with the overall enjoyment of the film.
The art does a brilliant job of bringing the craziness to the screen, accompanied by equally weird, yet good, music in a cacophony of electronic sounds and ever-fluctuating vocals. The artists didn’t skimp on animation. Several scenes have so much animation at once that you need to watch them several times through in order to catch everything.
If you enjoyed Inception, but thought it was too realistic and needed a few more talking guitars and nightmare fuel, then I recommend Paprika. Just don’t expect the same sort of narrative as Inception. That would only lead to disappointment.
Art – Very High
A crazy world of dreams filled with imagination brought out by surreal art.
Sound – High
Both Japanese and English voice tracks are great, though the Japanese has the edge. Paprika’s voice in English may grate on you from its ‘squirreliness.’ Love the psychedelic music.
Story – High
A fun story of insanity that breaks the mind with a smattering of horror thrown in.
Overall Quality – High
Recommendation: Paprika is a must watch, even with a few narrative faults. Prepare to dive into some bloody weird dreams.
Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)