Features and Columns · Movies

Dream Therapy: The Heartfelt Humanism of Satoshi Kon’s ‘Paprika’

Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? When it comes to Satoshi Kon’s ‘Paprika’ the answer is an enthusiastic yes.
Sony Pictures Classics
By  · Published on February 2nd, 2022

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on how Satoshi Kon’s film Paprika uses emotions to tackle the enigma of unconsciousness.

Set in the near future, Paprika tells the story of a research team with the technology to view other people’s dreams. Dr. Atsuko Chima uses the device (known as the “DC Mini”) to rehabilitate psychiatric patients by entering their subconscious as her alter ego, the peppy, charismatic “Paprika.” Because it’s just a prototype, the DC Mini lacks access requirements. So when the machine is stolen, the team has due cause to panic. Whoever the culprit is can enter anyone else’s dreams, threatening both their research and reality as we know it.

A key inspiration behind Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Satoshi Kon’s film is as elusive as its titular heroine. Relying heavily on dream logic, the film is riddled aesthetically and thematically with subconscious anxieties and suppressed desire, delving into genuinely distressing imagery while remaining persistently playful.

It is, admittedly, a magic trick only someone like Satoshi Kon can pull off: that this film with giant naked people towering above the Tokyo skyline, nightmare fuel geisha dolls, and a chaotic parade comprised of inanimate objects should amount to anything “wholesome.” And yet the video essay below argues just that, teasing together Paprika’s threads to underline the heartfelt nature of its core thematic thrust. Namely, both art and dreams (is there a difference?) can inspire and influence us to get in touch with the emotions holding us back. What a devastatingly fitting thesis for what would prove to be Kon’s final feature film.

Warning – spoilers ahead.

Watch “Paprika – Human Emotion Within the Subconscious”:

Who made this?

This video essay on the themes of the animated feature Paprika is by You Have Been Watching Films. United Kingdom-based writer Oliver Bagshaw produces the channel, creating video essays on an assortment of movies, from cult to classic strains of cinema history. You can subscribe to their YouTube channel here.

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Based in the Pacific North West, Meg enjoys long scrambles on cliff faces and cozying up with a good piece of 1960s eurotrash. As a senior contributor at FSR, Meg's objective is to spread the good word about the best of sleaze, genre, and practical effects.