Paprika is a beautifully animated film that, even when it presents us with its many confusing twists and turns, consistently keeps us visually engaged and immersed within the film. The film’s premise is that dream technology has become a reality, and a psychologist uses prototype machines named DC Minis to assist in her therapy sessions; by recording and even entering her patient’s dreams. However these prototypes are stolen, and the criminals are able to enter into the minds of previous users, viewing their subconscious and generally wreaking dream based havoc. If this sounds familiar then yes, there are strong similarities to Inception, but the difference here is that where Nolan’s presentation of dreams was structured and in many ways restrained, Paprika’s characters are out of control; they have no totem to track when they are dreaming, and the dream world is far more recognisably surreal and bizarre. Paprika is also a love letter to film; frequently commenting on the comparable relationship that we have with dreaming and with watching films – which adds an additional and interesting layer to Paprika.
The film’s soundtrack is particularly good, and when coupled with the previously mentioned excellent animation, it makes for a real treat. Both elements recreate the conflict between the familiarity and also lack of cohesion and realism present in dreams, and do so very well – becoming really the main draw to the film. Not that the premise is at all uninteresting, but when watching it I found myself far more interested in the different ways that the film animated ideas, as opposed to the plot driven reasons for arriving at these moments. There are multiple different ways of viewing, focusing upon and interpreting Paprika, but the one which most immediately stands out is the sensory. Another reason why I highlight this area in particular is because of the multitude of possible interpretations and discussions that Paprika can open up. This aspect of the film is best left as undiscussed as possible for someone’s first viewing.
Comparison’s to Inception, whilst not suggesting that Inception ripped Paprika off, do allow for some interesting discussion on how different films depict dream-worlds, and may hopefully get more people to see this film. Paprika’s certainly not for everyone; it’s strange, at times appears inaccessible, and benefits from re-watches, but if you are prepared for that then you should hopefully really enjoy it. If you’re opposed to confusing films which demand a certain amount of focus, then I think that it is a very legitimate way of watching Paprika to simply absorb, and be entertained by the spectacle on screen. This film celebrates the escapism that film as a medium can give us, and it revels in looking, and sounding beautiful whilst it does so.
Note: I recommend watching Paprika with subtitles rather than its English dub, there’s not a huge leap in quality, but the subtitles are consistently better.