Words by Adrian Vargas
Paprika opens a door into an ethereal dreamscape, one which will bend your perception of the world around you. The question of dream versus reality is not a simple philosophical one, but is the question posed by the film. Are you truly witnessing the destruction of a city, or are you dreaming it? Maybe it’s both. This movie is unique, even for anime. The relationship between human and machine is dissected, showing what places we can go to when joined together.
Directed and co-written by Satoshi Kon, the movie is based on Yasutaka Tsutsui’s 1993 novel of the same name. The story is centered around a gadget known as the DC Mini, a device that allows the wearer to enter the dreams of others. Some might find the concept noticeably similar to Christopher Nolan’s Inception, but Paprika carves out a distinct place for itself in the niche of science fiction dream theater.
Inception follows the story of dream invaders who aim to persuade the rich and powerful, whereas Kon’s film is centered on a criminal who has stolen the device, the DC Mini. With the heist of the DC mini people soon come under the control of others, and a chaotic world blending fiction and reality is emerges. Inception’s story is much more streamlined, flowing from dream A, to B, to C. Paprika however, goes from dream A to dream Z, back to dream F. At no point in the movie will the viewer fully know what is happening, and that adds to the unique ability of the film to lead your mind in new directions.
Trying to detail the events of the plot is like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube with your eyes closed; doable, but not worth the trouble. Paprika’s plot is not one the viewer will follow along with easily, and maybe it’s not meant to be followed at all. Perhaps it is simply meant to be experienced, or, perhaps, dreamed of. The film seamlessly fuses the world of dreams with reality to the point where neither the characters nor the viewers can no longer differentiate between the two. Its tension, its bliss, and its horror are all palpable, embracing the viewer with a dementedly beautiful world that will invoke the dreamers within us all.
Another noteworthy characteristic of Paprika stems from its visuals. In the first scene the viewer is greeted by cavalcade of hallucinatory images, and from that point on it’s incessant. No scene feels stale, each providing a sense of whimsy and charm that, even at its most disturbing creates a world of demented euphoria.
At one moment a character could be sitting at home, aimlessly viewing their television or computer screen, only to see a parade of marching band frogs, inanimate objects with human faces, and porcelain dolls from hell seamlessly sucked into it and then ultimately deciding to leave those screens and join in on the festivities as if it is second nature- like it’s nothing out of the ordinary. This visual splendor plays on the film’s major theme, which remarks that we as people are blending dreams and reality, causing ourselves to separate from the material world and ultimately from others.
Paprika is a film experience of another caliber. Everything is questioned, nothing is known, and that’s why it is so perfect. The viewer should not try to intensely follow along with the plot, as that will only deter their mind from the visually stimulating dream the film induces. This is a film to be a part of, a film that to be embraced for what it is: manically delighting.
Dreams become reality in Paprika, and sometimes that reality is not as pure as we would hope.