Cristopher Nolan's new movie 'Tenet' has his trademark existential and epistemological themes around time, memory, and reality. Mystifying. So what better time to explore his arguably most incredible film 'Inception' and the similarities it has with the Japanese film 'Paprika'.
Inception is based around a man named Cobb, who is able to enter people's dreams. With the promise of reuniting with his daughter, he is given a job to plant an idea in someone's subconcious. With all sorts of twists and turns, and reality-altering it scenes, it has become one of the most pioneering movies of the 21st century. Paprika on the other hand, based on Yasutaka Tsutsui's 1993 novel, is a Japanese sci-fi anime film which features a research psychologist who uses a device that permits therapists to help patients by entering their dreams. Centred around the same themes, it seems that Nolan's Inception almost brings the Paprika concept into real-life and within the context of a not-so-distant time.
I find that despite their visual similarities they also hold differences which truly set them apart as concepts. Inception is a clear representation of a more reality-based conundrum, which would be aptly named as one critic put it 'surrealist-inspired'. From the use of Mission Impossible-esque action to very normalised parameters Nolan says in an interview that, "there are rules to the way the characters use dreaming, which defines reality, which defines the dreams they enter,". Perhaps catering to a western audience, his grounding in logic, creates a gripping action movie which explores the levels of subconcious and defines the mechanics of a dream world heavily adapted from reality.
On the other hand, Kon's Paprika, takes its audience through twists and turns, which play with the idea of a never-ending journey and the dream-like quality being present in many of his other movies (ie Perfect Blue and Millenium Actress). His take truly fits the surrealist definition of 'art and literature which sought to release the creative potential of the unconscious mind, for example by the irrational juxtaposition of images'. He himself states that 'the future resolution of these two states, seemingly so contradictory, of dream and reality, in a kind of absolute reality, a surreality, so to speak.' which becomes apparent in his use of giant sized inanimate objects and an endless parade of fictional characters, to the point where Detective Toshimi Konakawa asks, “Am I still dreaming?”. His use of more child-like imagination stems from the characteristics posed by the enigmatic form of anime itself. It allows for the distortion of the reality due to its nature that attends to our infantile recognition that all things are truly possible. In many ways it allows for a much more incredulous context but seamlessly interwoven which truly challenges what a dream and reality could be.
Testing the boundaries of what is truly possible although Paprika might fit with Nolan's idea of 'abstract and incomprehensible', though in many ways it truly encapsulates the idea of the surrealist form of dreams. From its rich saturation to its grandiose imagery and delivery; when looking at the reality of dreams it seems that, Kon's exploration brings out an essence which is difficult to put a finger on. And without boundaries as dreams should be.
Both Inception (2010) and Paprika (2006) are both thrilling movies to watch while we still have to stay indoors so check them out and enjoy their different narratives.