Thursday, 22 October 2009

A Living Doll

(Do you remember the song? It suddenly rang out in my years. ...Gotta do the best to please her just 'cause she's a living doll...)

The inspiration for writing this blog entry is a Japanese film by Hirokazu Kore-eda, whichI was privileged to see a couple of weeks ago. His recent Still Walking is, by the way, the winner of Oslo Kinos lanseringspris and will now be running in film theatres.

I fished The Air Doll out of the blue, one of several hundred festival films, one I never heard of, one I picked by accident just to watch a Japanese film by a reputedly famous director.

It kept haunting me ever since, coming back through memories of the things I read, gender discussions, other films, spiritual conversations and even all things Japanese.

After ten minutes of watching it, I remeber thinking - I cannot believe a man filmed this. The first thing my friend told me after it was over, was: was the director a man? Yes, my dear, the director was a man. Paradoxically, this was the most spiritual film I have ever seen, specifically Christian films aside. The fact that it reminded me of the controversy discussed in the link above - whether women have souls - is I think in line with what the director intended, even though his creation is so multi-leveled it is bound to have a life of its own.

Why is it a paradox that I found this film spiritual? You see, it is about an inflatable sex doll. A cheap one. Her owner comes home every night to her, talks to her, dresses her, eats with her, and... you know. She is a sex doll, after all. Made to be a substitute. Made to fulfil sexual desires.

But she finds a heart. She opens her eyes and starts to breathe. She finds a heart and starts to lie. Empty inside. Understanding her emptiness. Even her name is someone else's. Looking for the Other. The Other that is not a substitute.

The film was shockingly correct in pinpointing the modern/permeating attitude to sex, but also the sense of emptiness and loss, this all-consuming search for the real thing, for the Other in all the things that only increase empriness and drag further away from reality. However, one aspect of it, what I reacted most to, was this 'living doll' thing, something the classical feminists would have been incredibly proud of, whether it was the director's intention or not. Of course, the gender tension takes on a rather dramatic turn in the very end, but it only reinforces what we already understand. Nobody wanted her to have a heart. A slim, lovely, silent, dressed-up beautiful doll. Who never has a headache, mind you. Why would she need a soul???

Highly recommended! I think everyone could relate to the big-city emptiness Kore-eda presented, and the gender problem cut to the heart. Grown-up men were all teary-eyed in the end and my friend told me she would have started weeping aloud had it not been for fear of humiliating me in public...

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