In the near future, a device called the DC mini will allow a new kind of psychotherapy, whereby a person wearing the device during sleep will allow his or her therapist to view their dreams. The DC minis aren’t quite ready yet, but Dr. Chiba is already using them outside the facility to help her patients, like Detective Konakawa, who has recurring nightmares, by assuming her alter-ego Paprika in the dream world, and guiding him through the source of his anxiety.
Despite secrecy, the lab is broken into, and the DC minis fall into the wrong hands. Still in their early stages of development, the devices lack access restrictions, so when they’re stolen, they allow anyone to enter anyone else’s dreams. Soon the scientists at the lab seem to be falling prey to dream invasions – bad dreams being implanted by the thieves of the device – which have real-world consequences.
As dreams and real life start to merge, does the film get confusing? You betcha: kind of like the best dreams do. It’s surreal, of course, fresh and fantastic, but trippy, and rife with the problems of translated-from-Japanese dialogue. You might get a brain bleed trying to make sense of this movie, which I suspect is meant to be experienced more than understood anyway. If it sounds a little like Inception, you’re not wrong. Christopher Nolan was influenced by Paprika, but while Satoshi Kon’s film is able to play with the fluidity between dreams and reality more recklessly, Nolan’s film irons out the incongruities and presents something a little easier to follow and swallow.
Satoshi Kon is not just a film maker, but a film lover as well, and he uses the dream sequences in Paprika, now watchable and movie-like, as an homage to his own favourite films. There’s a parrallel between dreams, movies, and how we use both to construct narrative in our own lives. The imagery is truly like nothing you’ve seen before, and paired with a very unique soundtrack, it lifts you out of, and beyond, the usual movie going experience.