Updated: Aug 19, 2019
Satoshi Kon’s fourth and final film Paprika presents itself as a psychological thriller by way of an in-depth mystery that explores the psyches of its characters. In doing so themes of grief, guilt, envy, pride, and gluttony are sprinkled throughout the film in a well-crafted manner that leaves a savory taste in the viewer’s mind.
What makes Paprika stand out as a psychological thriller is its refusal to look at one aspect of a character. The theft of the DC Mini, a device that allows dreams to be shared for psychotherapy, and consequences that lie therein gives each character their own set of problems they must solve. Dr. Atsuko Chiba uses a dream avatar named Paprika vie the DC Mini to help patients with their issues, but her extended use of the machine causes her psychological issues between where she begins and where Paprika ends and puts her life at risk when the realms of dreams and reality begin to blur. Detective Toshimi Konakawa is plagued by a murder case he is desperately trying to solve, but he also has a fear of movies and the number 17. There are other characters who get varying degrees of spotlight and what makes Paprika worth being invested in is the fact that most of them, but unfortunately not all, get some form of unity come the film’s climax.
A major pro that Paprika has in its corner is its status as a visual feast. Paprika is incredible to watch. There are parade scenes with dancing refrigerators, a bevy of creepy dolls and a float in one instance and men whose heads turn into phones and women and children who turn into golden statues in another. These scenes primarily take place in dream settings, but seep into reality so seamlessly, it becomes difficult to tell what is real and what is a dream. The images Paprika gives the audience represent its characters’ thoughts and personalities be they tame or utterly terrifying. Regarding these visuals, it is important to reiterate, Paprika is a psychological thriller, not a horror even if it may teeter the line at times.
Given the hefty load of themes and the art shown throughout, it is easy to miss several aspects of the film upon initial viewing. This can be enough to turn people off. However, Paprika offers a lot to anyone who views it. If it is a one-time view, the insane imagery and extremely lively music veering towards obnoxious or being added to your Spotify playlist 50 times, that is completely fine. If you want to deep dive into a candy bowl full of meaning and thought you feel you will not get until your 50th watch, that is fine as well.
*It is also worth mentioning the English and Japanese dubs for Paprika are extremely well done. *