Saturday, February 8, 2014

FROM THE ASHES: Segment # 6

It Found A Voice

   One of the grandest film projects of it era, the haunting masterwork of Ghost In The Shell is our topic this week. There are no words needed after viewing this film, and yet I could go on with an unforeseen magnitude of them. Drawing its first breath in 1989, the manga ( both written and illustrated) by Masamune Shirow (1961-) was first published in three volumes before being subsidised into one large trade. The story is far more than its cyberpunk thriller cover implies. A greatly ambitious work, Ghost In The Shell big questions of its viewers on an almost spiritual level. First and foremost asking: what is the defining trait of a soul? In a world where humanoid cyborgs outnumber those without any technological modification, lies a special force that deals with the elite hackers of society; for hackers are the new Lords of crime. Sounds pretty intense, right? You better believe it. With a budget of $10,000,000, a simultaneous release in Japan, the US, and the UK, & a cultural and philosophical impact unrivaled, this film doesn't even have to beg for high praise, it earns it without question. Who better to even attempt to bring the creation of this magnitude to the big screen, then director Mamoru Oshii (1951-). Best known for intensely complex films did move his audience, some being: Angels Egg, Patlabor The Movie, The Sky Crawlers, and of course the Ghost In The Shell films. If that wasn't impressive enough, there were not one but four producers on this film! Another impressive aspect of this film's production is its intensely haunting and mesmerizing soundtrack, composed by Kenji Kawai (1957-). He boasts a diverse resume, breaking ground in numerous genres such as: horror, sci-fi, and historical epic; which gives his work very unique sound. Some of his work includes: Vampire Princess Miyu, Blue Seed, Sorcerer Hunters, The Ring, The Princess Blade, Fate Stay Night, Death note, IP Man, and Ghost In The Shell. So yeah, color me impressed. All that, and the film still has far more credentials in its roster. This film is still one of the most successful to integrate CG and cell animation into its effects. As much as I'd like to continue rambling about this gargantuan production, the intellectual content of this masterpiece holds more sway over me personally. 

   What a story! As always, I intend to be spoiler free so that anyone reading is more inclined to actually see the film. As I mentioned earlier, most prominent theme or question brought too light is: what is the defining trait of a soul? When machine and man are so intimately intertwined in modern biology, the line of difference between a memory chip and a memory cell becomes blurred. Philosophers have pondered what makes a man and what is his soul, for many millennia. In that respect, this premise is unremarkable. Rather than the cybernetic prosthetics and processors of Major Kunesagi, was not the lovely Pgmaylion a machine simply made of ivory? The debate of man playing God by creating perfection of his own image is more a precursive note, rather than the prime point in this film. In fact it is immediately established that man has no qualms playing creator, from the opening credits. In this established world, cybernetic prosthetics is just one more market among all the rest. Speaking of an established world; boy oh boy does this film indulge in making sure you feel the weight, sounds, sites and scents of its environment! Sooooo many establishing shots! While I do see how some viewers would consider this a detriment to the films pacing, I personally would not agonize over it. The visuals are stunningly detailed. As with quite a number of his films, director Mamoru Oshii tends to leave lots of space and time for the audience to think while watching; making it more of an experience to take in. As with any film, every film is not for everyone. That is definitely not a bad thing. However, I can very easily say that I immensely enjoy this particular brew of storytelling. Another personal preference, is my choice to view it was the English cast. Both tracks are fine, I just like the English actors. They give a strong yet subtle performance, and it doesn't hurt that they all come back for the other films and series. Phew! This film has had a great cultural impact and spawned philosophical discussion since its worldwide released in 1995. My only hope is that you will seek this film out, give it a watch, and let your mind get immersed in the world. Just don't lose your Ghost!

From The Ashes, V.~

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