When I first saw Paprika, I immediately placed it in my top 100. It has many elements that I dearly love. A surrealism that reflects its dream-like narrative that leads to many surprising moments, especially in the introductory section. A double character whose real life persona is melancholic but smart, and her dream counterpart who is cheery and cheeky. Then there is the foundational dream, supposedly created from an egotistical maniac, which is used to invade other’s dream-states and trap them in it. All of this is simple genius and still deeply impresses me.
But in my re-watch, I realize that there is a bit too much time spent on simple nonsense, the placement of words together that is not supposed to make any sense, and of repeated images that are there simply to startle. The central dream sequence begins as nonsense, but as it becomes more elaborate, the combination of seemingly random details become a unique art form, powerful and hypnotic.
I’ve been reflecting on my long-held love of Alice in Wonderland. I deeply appreciate Martin Gardener’s notes in The Annotated Alice, for it takes a book of nonsense, and claims that there is meaning and intent behind the crazy images. It is a fine attempt, but in the end, even should many of the claims be true, isn’t it still a collection of nonsense? Does it really have any meaning as a whole?
Paprika certainly has a meaning, the narrative of mutual appreciation, even love; the rejection of fantasy for the sake of power; the discovery of oneself in the subconscious. But these meanings seem shallow compared to the surreal and nonsense that Paprika presents. Like Alice, it works as an act of imagination. But as a work that provides meaning to our everyday lives, less so.