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What is needed today is an expression with ‘depth’. The urban scene of Poland where the setting of ‘Avalon‘ is laid in looks more futuristically rather than hackneyed scenes of ‘Tokyo’. The simple and austere appearance speaks eloquently to us.

Most of the scenes in the film are changed using strong tones of color. For example, a monotone which creates a deserted feel. It also creates a suitable atmosphere as a stage for the young who are crazy over a game as seen in the opening telop. The leading character, Ash (Malgorzata Foremniak) lives in such a world and it is really excellent. His characte is shrewd, cool and stoic having something in common with the leading character of ‘Ghost in the Shell’. I wonder if it’s an image that the director enjoys. The first scene where Ash speaks her lines looking with severe eyes up at a combat helicopter is really cool and I’m sure she is the very woman for the post. At the same time, the scene shows us her ‘strength’. There are other films (except for animation) directed by Mamoru Oshii – ‘Red Spectacles’ and ‘Stray Dog – Kerberos Panzer Cops’. When I saw those films, I found a kind of director’s dilemna for expression. It’s rather difficult to realize the director’s image in the film, though it’s easy to do the same thing in animation. However, in the film ‘Avalon’, I think the dilemna was disposed of with the technology and shooting in other countries other than Japan. I could find it in his comment that appeared in the press sheet, ‘All films could be animations on the horizon of Digital’ as well. Nevertheless, the essential attraction of this film is not technology. Technology is no more than a technique, but it’s not necessarily related with intense expression.

What is important is the fact that Mamoru Oshii has always scrupulously described people in his films. Works of good quality which impress viewers always have a human drama whether concretely or abstractly. This is essential to attractive works. Special effects of CG and the real combat helicopter give a strong image to the film, but they’re no more than supporting roles. When there’s too much battle scenes in a film, it only makes us a comfortable on a low level even if it’s very powerful. Needless to say, I can see Mamoru Oshii has a great insistence on arms and machines (including sound effects) in both ‘Ghost in the Shell’ and ‘Avalon’. Though the principal role should always be in ‘people’ and this film keeps balance through the whole story while he insists on action scenes.

Ash makes money by playing games, buys food, gets on a train to her home where she lives and feeds her dog. She sometimes meets her friends. It’s important to have those scenes in her everyday life. The highlight of this film is ‘everyday life’. Without it, this film would become no more than a promotional film of a virtual game. Only a small group of fans would enjoy such a film. Then, why is everyday life described? It’s because such scenes of everyday life shorten the distance between the film screen and people who see the film. Why do they need to be shortened? It’s because the world of ‘Avalon’ is linked with the world we live in. Everyday life is not as complicated as you think. Maybe it can be described within a few lines. It’s a reality, but is it a real reality? What should we think real? This film tell us the importance of recognizing reality. We have to find ‘our field (reality)’ ‘not being deluded by phenomena’. Those words say something to those who have see the film.

With the advance of technology, images in imagemakers’ minds can be visualized almost perfectly. By using technology as a tool/means, the film ‘Avalon’ has reached to a ‘deeper’ expression. There’s one result: that this film displays the tastes of Mamoru Oshii completely. I hope you take notice of those plain scenes of ‘everyday life’. There you’ll definitely find the hidden artistry of Mamoru Oshii.

Here is the fax interview with Mamoru Oshii, the director of ‘Avalon’.

How do you feel just after you finished ‘Avalon‘?

I feel like I directed two films of real picture and animation. I’m so tired for two films.

Your previous animation ‘Ghost in the Shell’ has had a great reputation, even overseas. Why did you think of doing a real picture film for your latest film after five years?

Because I couldn’t find a methodology to continue creating animation. I completely reached a dead end then.

Why did you think of shooting the film in Poland with the local cast and staff? Also, did you have a feeling that something was wrong in producing a film in Poland?

Because I concluded that Poland was the best place for the story. Once I decided to shoot the film in Poland, I wanted to produce the whole film using the local system in Poland. And once I started it, there was no feeling that something was wrong.

Aside from animation, it’s not always possible to realize the initial idea in the film. Do you think it’s an advantage or a disadvantage?

The inconvenience of real pictures is that can be decided by the director’s arbitrariness and at the same time, there must be unexpected accidents because of the inconvenience. Advantages and disadvantages are always on the same coin.

The leading character of this film is a shrewd, cool and stoic woman. She has something in common with the leading character of your previous animation. Why did you describe her with those characteristics?

Because I like the character. I think it’s my ideal of a woman.

In this film, real tanks and combat helicopters are used for the shooting. Didn’t you think of making those pictures with CG? In recent years, there’s a growing number of full CG films in Hollywood. What do you think about it?

I didn’t think of doing it. CGs ring true only with real objects. Therefore, I’m not interested in full CG works, nor I don’t find any merits in them as a film.

What is described in this film is people who live their lives playing a game, and in the previous film ‘Ghost in the Shell’, it detailed a secret corps of the government. Your other works have a theme that gives us a feeling of something underground. Is it your favorite theme?

I think I don’t have any motives to describe people who only live their everyday lives. I don’t think film is a suitable media to describe everyday lives.

I found that reality / unreality is very subjective in this film. Do you have any intentions about it? Also, does the dog in the film have a role as a bridge between reality and unreality (or reality in the parallel world)?

I don’t think it’s a real existence that we can tell objectively, rather than subjectively. I don’t want to say anything about the dog. It must be left to your imagination.

Why did you use an orchestra for the whole soundtrack?

Because I’d never used orchestras when I worked with Mr. Kawai. I just wanted to try it once.

Do you think the future described in ‘Ghost in the Shell’ or ‘Avalon’ will be in our real future?

There’s no relationship between the future described in the film and the real future. If anything, I think I described the present day.

Do you have any plans for the future? Do you think you’ll continue this approach that combines real picture and CG?

I think I’ll direct an animated project next, though I can’t announce it officially yet. It doesn’t mean an animation based on a real picture. But I want to try the approach of ‘Avalon’ again.

2001 / Japan / 35 mm / DOLBY Digital Surround EX, DTS-ES / vista size / 106 min
Produced by : Deiz Presented by : Bandai Visual Co.,Ltd, Media Factory Inc., Dentsu Inc., Nippon Herald Films Inc.
Distributed by : Nippon Herald Films Inc.
Directed by : Mamoru Oshii Screenplay : Kazunori Itoh Music : Kenji Kawai

Text: Shinichi Ishikawa from Numero Deux
Translation: Mayumi Kaneko

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