PAPRIKA: Interview with Satoshi Kon
I'm not all that knowledgeable about anime, but last year I watched Satoshi Kon's Paranoia Agent, my very first exposure to the genre. I was impressed with the talent behind the images, but the story went off into weird territory that lost me entirely. Just the same, when I read the reports here of Paprika, Kon's latest work, and when I saw the phenomenal images, I was fully prepared to give him another shot. The following is from an interview with Satoshi Kon at DVDrama.
Excessif: After Perfect Blue, what made you adapt another novel?
Satoshi Kon: At first, Perfect Blue was a made-to-order film. I was asked to make that film while for Paprika, I took the initiative to adapt the novel. I’ve always been a fan of the work of Yasutaka Tsutsui. I believe that Paprika was published ten years ago. I remember at the time, I found it extraordinary and thought that there was the potential to create something truly incredible. For ten years I did nothing but seek financial backing to adapt it for the big screen, but that wasn’t forthcoming. Up until the day when we met for a debate organized by a magazine and he himself proposed that I do the adaptation. Very strangely, when I met him, I felt that I had a sort of mysterious destiny with him. I can’t explain it any other way.
Were your dreams, or more precisely your nightmares, a source of inspiration for the film?
What fascinates me in dreams is the idea that they emanate from our subconscious. I think that there are many possibilities to interpret dreams but a great deal of mystery always remains. When a dream is explained to us, it’s necessary to know the personal context of the subject. For example, what his childhood was like, his adolescence, his interpersonal relations. You’ve got to understand all these elements in order to tally up the dream and to decode it. At the cinema, that can’t happen because the approach demands the introduction of too many elements. In order for viewers to identify with this dream, I chose a parade which makes one think automatically of other common dreams and unconscious states. There are very old characters like objects that are discarded by people today or religious symbols that people have forgotten. I think that even nowadays, people have forgotten the importance of dreams.
How do you explain the influence of other filmmaking on your animation?
I’ve always been inspired by live action. But it isn’t for the love of cinema. In fact, it’s more because I don’t want to take references from other animation. If you make animation from another animation, I don’t see the interest in reproducing the very same thing. I think that when you change the form, new ideas are born. For example, when you adapt a play for the cinema, the interest comes from the change of form. Allowing you to bring in fresh ideas.
Where does the shape of the DC Mini come from? Is it a reference to David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, or something you came up with?
I haven’t seen Cronenberg’s film but a lot of viewers have mentioned it to me. The shape of DC Mini comes from a plant the Japanese call ‘the sleeping plant’ and when someone touches it, it gives the impression of lowering its head.
You've never been interested in making a film with live action, or perhaps even combining the two?
I’ve never been interested in creating a film with live action. But it’s the first time anyone has brought up the idea of combining the two mediums. I thank you since that’s exactly what I’d like to do in the future. I'd really like to make a film which begins with live action and ends with animation.
Where does this obsession with the Internet come from?
To my way of thinking, the Internet has two functions. First of all, as any other tool, like television and the telephone. But in addition to this function, I think that the Internet possesses similarities to dreams. For example, dreams take place at night. You enter into a very vast universe. The Internet is the very same thing. Fanatics log on the Internet at night. In both cases, there are two universes which remove us from reality.
In Paprika, a character says a line which sums up this thought : « The Internet and dreams are the means of expressing the inhibitions of mankind ».
That’s right, because by participating in chat rooms and Internet forums, people free themselves from their daily oppression.
Compared to your other films, you’ve practically resorted to 3D. Why this choice?
For me, it was a novelty. I plan on using this technique even more in the future. Paprika was one way of experimenting with this. The gamble was working with a group who’d never worked in this way before. In fact, I’m someone who does everything by hand. For me, it was a great change. To come to an agreement on the expression or to make these two different universes coalesce was very difficult.
How did you arrive at the soundtrack?
Many people compliment me on the soundtrack. Susumu Hirasawa composed the music, I’ve been a big fan of his for twenty years. Usually, music is composed for a finished film, but truth be told, I’ve always been influenced by his pre-production work.
What films about dreams have influenced you the most?
Brazil is a film that I appreciate a lot, both for what it says and for the alternating between dream and reality. At the time, it impressed me. Terry Gilliam has his own universe but unfortunately he’s a filmmaker who hasn’t been able to break through like he ought to have. Certain films of his are fabulous, like The Baron Munchausen and Time Bandits.
What other themes would you like to explore?
I’ve made a lot of films surrounding dreams and reality, but now that I've finished Paprika, I’d like to move on to something else. My plan is to do animation for children. Given that I plan to direct them, they certainly won’t be children’s films that I’d call ‘normal’ (he smiles). I’d like these films to be seen both by children and by the adults that accompany them.
-- Romain Le Vern
Interview (in French)
Todd's Review of Paprika