Satoshi Kon’s Paprika: the Parade of Post-Modern Consciousness

Satoshi Kon’s Anime film, Paprika (2006), a surreal and psychedelic visual feast, addresses issues of human identity, consciousness, and technology.  Paprika approaches the idea of human consciousness as an abstract, unbroken stream of dreams, reality, movies, and technology, through a “dream carnival”, or a collective, public dream.   Personal identity comes to a point of crisis and becomes blurred through the misuse of technology (sound familiar?).  The character, Paprika, is the alter dream-ego of Dr. Chiba a psychiatrist experimenting with dream technology for use in psychotherapy.  Her colleague, Dr. Tokita, has developed the DC Mini, a device which allows entry into individual dreams.  When two of the prototypes are stolen and one of the lab technicians (hiruma) goes missing, Chiba as Paprika enters a dream world to find the culprit.  An unknown “dream terrorist” begins entering and manipulating the dreams of various citizens, subsequently driving them insane.  Consequently, each dream/dreamer that has been hijacked is assimilated into a giant dream carnival, a cacophony of cartoonish characters, images and sounds which sort of resembles a giant montage of popular culture.  As Paprika, Chiba and her colleagues travel in and out dreams, the line between what is real and what is a dream sort of combine into one surreal stream of consciousness.  Chiba, at one point in the film, compares our dreams to the internet, which is itself a separate stream of consciousness that we immerse ourselves in.  Kon also uses a lot of Jungian psychology and imagery when it comes to personal identity.  Paprika is literally “split” quite violently by one of the dream terrorists, and ripped in half revealing Dr. Chiba underneath.   I think one of the ideas that Kon is trying to convey in his film is the danger of losing ourselves in technology.  Our “real” self is increasingly subsumed by our technological self which is immersed in the internet, cell phones, video games, and soon to come – virtual reality.  I love films that play with different ideas of reality and Paprika does this in spades.  The cartoonish psychedelics of the dream world reminded me a little of Yellow Submarine, but with a much more philosophical twist and relevance.

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