For some time, my enjoyment of a film or drama was largely based off of the strength of the script and level of character development. I paid little attention to visual aspects. My perception was greatly changed after a discussion with one of my friends. She was showing me one of her paintings in the school gallery, and while I admired the impressive technical skills exhibited, I had difficulty understanding the abstract piece. “What’s the meaning behind it?” I asked. She shrugged. “Does it have to have meaning?” she replied.
She was right. Sometimes art does not communicate a grand message or moral conviction. Sometimes, it is merely a vessel to provoke appreciation from the viewers on its artistic merit.
With Paprika, though I feel a lack of closure thematically, I am awed by the ambitious visuals. Colorful sets of frogs playing clarinets and larger-than-life dolls that parade the streets relay a sense of playfulness, of some alternate reality. Even scene transitions are fluid and unique, like Paprika disappearing from the store only to emerge in the shirt of a skateboarder seconds later in the opening theme. Lines between reality and dream shatter in glass walls and later blur in smeared handprints of office reflections. The viewers’ emotions are strung along by the director’s whims in an unreal circus trip.
It is, however, this same constant flurry of action that makes it difficult for the viewer to locate a precise climax or even conflict in the story. Different chases compete for screen time, and ultimately we are left with a resolution that leaves more questions than answers. Some of this is perhaps intentional, but even simple plot threads are left dangling in the end.
Despite my exaggerated complaints, I really enjoyed watching Paprika. Certainly it is worth a watch simply to admire the work of the one-and-only director Satoshi Kon.