Jason's Pick:

Angel's Egg

While in recent years the amount of anime coming to the U.S. has -- to speak in language appropriate to ANGEL'S EGG -- grown from a trickle to a torrent, there are still classic, cult works left inexplicably untranslated. ANGEL'S EGG, directed by Mamoru Oshii (GHOST IN THE SHELL), is such a work; dreamlike, symbolic, and bad at the box office, it was only released in the U.S. in a "post-apocalyptic" version, IN THE AFTERMATH intercut with live action by none other than Roger Corman. However, the phrase "post-apocalyptic" is inadequate to describe the melancholy and alienation of this story, a story even Mamoru Oshii himself claims he does not have an explanation for.

To quote Oshii, the movie begins at sunset and ends at sunrise; between these periods, two characters wander through an empty world. The landscapes consist of forests, leaning Gothic buildings, and strange alchemical structures made of fish skeletons, all in shades of green, purple, and blue. Through the damp night walks a little girl holding an enormous egg with warmth and care; later she is joined by a young man, perhaps a soldier, who follows her and tries to win her trust. Fountains splash. Water gurgles. Very little happens, though the beginning and ending are clear.

The film is carried along by the beautiful artwork of Yoshitaka Amano (FINAL FANTASY, VAMPIRE HUNTER D), whose subtle and baroque style has never been so well-captured. The 30-second scene of the little girl rubbing her eyes and getting out of bed is enough animation for most movies. Lacking action scenes to cut their teeth on, the animation staff use experimental methods to suggest shadows, flowing hair and running water -- the latter being an omnipresent image which Oshii has suggested may relate to Noah's Ark.

In its dreaminess and religious content, the closest thing to ANGEL'S EGG is the more accessible NIGHT ON THE GALACTIC RAILROAD, but ANGEL'S EGG's extreme simplicity makes interpretations almost superfluous; everything is simply the visuals and the sound of rain. The dialogue is minimal; little is lost by viewing the film in Japanese, though compulsive watchers will want to know the translation in hopes of gleaning some elusive clue. Images reappear suggesting a strange, potentially religious meaning: churches with carvings of fish and birds; the man's staff, which may be either a gun or a cross; giant fetuses in blasted landscapes. Does it all add up? Is it meaningless? In the end, is it apocalyptic or redemptive? Beyond the strangeness of seeing Christian symbols as interpreted through non-Christian eyes, and the puzzle-box challenge to find the 'true' meaning, ANGEL'S EGG stands as an evocation of a mood and world which is powerful in spite of -- perhaps because of -- not being consciously understood.

Jason Thompson

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Angel's Egg ©Mamoru Oshii/Ten Productions/Tokuma Shoten/Tokuma Japan
©1997 Viz Communications, Inc.