The mind may be the only place we are truly free. The reason why this is so is clear: because no-one can see in. Thoughts can snake wherever they want to go and imagery of any description can be explored.
That’s why a recurring horror element in fiction is the invasion of dreams. In Paprika – where a stolen piece of tech allows a ‘dream terrorist’ to invade minds – reality is entirely subjective.
Paprika is the last movie from singular director Satoshi Kon before his untimely death in 2010 at the young age of 46.
His short filmography (which includes the violent and shocking Perfect Blue and glorious ode-to-cinema of Millenium Actress) stood out due to an ability to mess with audience perceptions.
The unique skill of animation is to distort and question reality far better than live action ever could.
Kon could not have been better placed to realise a movie about a dream detective bouncing around a viral shared nightmare. Indeed, in interviews he essentially said that his other movies had been practice for making this one.
What Is Paprika About?
Of all Kon’s films, Paprika is the most loosely plotted. That isn’t to say that plot is absent, just that it is less important than the visual flair on display.
Invented by innocent genius Dr Tokita to help psychotherapy, the ‘DC Mini’ is a device that allows the user to enter and record patients’ dreams.
Dr Chiba, through her alter ego ‘Paprika’, uses it ‘under the table’ to help those in need. When the DC Mini is stolen and misused to force dream like states into unwilling participants the race is on to find the culprit.
Cue a whole host of truly mesmerising scenes where what we thought was reality warps into dream logic. Kon employs a slew of unexpected tricks to keep you on your toes.
Perfect Blue used quick and intentionally confusing edits to skew your perceptions, whereas Paprika contorts the very frames of the film itself.
The first time you see a character try to vault a ground level fence only for the image to ripple like fabric and a different danger present itself is one you won’t forget.
Paprike Official Trailer
Is Paprika Worth Watching?
Such a rich tapestry of imagination can threaten to overload you at points. Whilst the plot taking a back seat is a deliberate artistic choice, the obvious side effect is a film like a free flowing banquet rather than a carefully planned meal.
Such gluttony can’t be sustained indefinitely – the runtime is well pitched at a snug 90 minutes – but, like the recurringly chaotic parade that invades people’s dreams, the sensory blitz will leave you satisfied as the credits roll.
What won’t whet your appetite is the characters, who are less defined than other Kon films. The business-like Dr Chiba (Megumi Hayashibara) remains an unknowable counterpoint to her more exuberant Paprika persona; her story resolves in a way that screams ‘made up on the fly’.
The villainous elements have unclear reasoning beyond ‘power corrupts’. Only Detective Konakawa has a full arc to explore, as his current murder case and his unresolved past merge in subconscious ways.
You come away from Paprika not with ‘this is what happened’ stories to tell to others. You come away from it with dozens and dozens of deftly animated sequences bouncing around your mind in quick succession.
Body horror as a character’s ‘outer shell’ is ripped apart to reveal the vulnerable person inside; the use of advertising billboards to drop in tons of dream logic film references; a contorting corridor that crumples up like paper under someone’s feet. These moments beg a rewatch immediately after the film finishes.
A story can be told by book, by film, by song, or by animation. Each medium has pros and cons, even if they blur at points. It is an evergreen delight to experience something that could only be done in one medium.
Paprika is glorious animation through and through and now available on Netflix. Don’t sleep on it.
Words by Mike Record
- Apple TV brings you the future of television, right at your fingertips. Immerse yourself in the world of laughter, inspiration, and heartwarming moments with the critically acclaimed show, Ted Lasso, and a plethora of other captivating content.
- Star studded, award winning series and films.
Amazon Prime Video
- Welcome to a world of boundless entertainment, where thrilling stories come to life at your convenience. Amazon Prime Video invites you to explore a universe of gripping narratives, including the adrenaline-pumping series, "Reacher," and an extensive selection of captivating content that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
- Additional benefits of Prime Membership: Music Streaming Service, Amazon Photos and Exclusive Offers
- Delve into a world of original storytelling, where Disney's creativity knows no bounds. With Disney+ Originals like "The Mandalorian," "WandaVision," and "Loki," you'll witness new narratives and characters that expand the enchanting tapestry of the Disney universe.
- Great collection of Kids series and movies.