Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fear of Yourself - Perfect Blue

One of the more interesting movies of the 90's was the Japanese animated feature, "Perfect Blue". The story follows a young idol singer Mima. Mima decides to leave the popular girl group Cham and attempt to start a career in acting. Some of her fans don't take kindly to this. They become enraged when sweet, cute Mima poses for nude pictures in a fashion magazine and appears in a savage rape scene in her first film. In addition, the pressures of acting, the uncomfortable feelings of shooting the rape scene and finding a fan web site that seems a little too dedicated to her life starts getting to Mima. She isn't that strong of a girl to begin with and these events start to push her into a world of paranoia and guilt.

Then the murders start.

What works so well in this movie is that we are only allowed to see Mima's impressions of events. As her world starts to fall apart, we are there with her, seeing the strange illusions she sees, and realizing the terrifying possibility that she might be killing people and not even know it. Director Satoshi Kon, keeps the audience and Mima off balance till the final five minutes of the movie.

The main fear at work here is the fear of self, something executed as far back as "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". More recently this fear was exploited in David Lynch's "Lost Highway" and Christopher Nolan's "Momento". In "Perfect Blue" animation makes this fear even more acute. Mima's world is torn down literally, with animation allowing the director to create images that would be impossible in a life action setting. Kon would go on to warp reality in his later works "Millennium Actress ", "Paranoia Agent" and "Paprika".

What are some works that you've encountered that use fear of self as the instrument of horror? What techniques are used to make this type of story work (of what was done that made it not work at all)? If you've seen "Perfect Blue", what did you think of it?

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