Although forgotten over the years, Mamoru Oshii made his mark in the 90s and early 2000s. Indeed, the Japanese director made an impression through several animated feature films, notably his two opuses in no labor certainly ghost in the shell AND Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Mamoru Oshii has thus attracted the graces of other prominent names in cinema such as James Cameron who described Ghost in The shEll of visionary work.
And when the shooting startedAvalonMamoru Oshii was aware of his critical fame. Avalon is a live-action science fiction film (not the first experience of this kind for the director, but the previous ones have not been conclusive) that deals with the perception of reality. But don’t expect an ersatzexistsMr or to Matrix, because in the form as in the end, Avalon it’s a UFO that is urgent to rediscover.
Somewhere in Poland, in a dystopian future, Ash, like thousands (millions?) of people, indulges in a virtual reality video game war game, Avalon (which takes its name from the Arthurian legend). Ash is one of the best players and wants to go one step further by entering a hidden level of Avalon. She then assembles a team to accomplish this seemingly impossible quest.
You will already tell me a first story. This is not the case, and Mamoru Oshii proves it by offering a unique vision of a virtual world, far removed from those designed by the Wachowski sisters or David Cronenberg. Thus, contrary to Wachowski’s Matrix (which was supposed to provide for the population), the Avalon universe seems hostile, an area of constant confrontations for the participants. However, players are joining this conflict of their own free will. They play by the rules of a sprite fight to the death and do not hesitate to work together to ensure victory. With this performance, Oshii already introduced some codes of current pop culture, reviving disturbing memories.
Indeed, the teams of players mentioned in the feature film, the roles of each and everyone, the social organization of the game refer to the guilds of World of Warcraft or teams of Counter-strike and of course in esports… in 2001. Based on the video game wizardthe director at the time already envisioned certain structures that govern our world today… while harkening back to a period we’d like to forget.
Because it should be noted that the game Avalon is set in the Cold War and, in fact, this can destabilize history lovers from the very first scenes. The explosion of tanks and helicopters in Warsaw is chilling and the director uses this disturbing environment to immerse his protagonists and the viewer a little more in this other reality. This reality (and others presented in the film) also benefits from a particular aesthetic that can seduce or divide.
On the edge of reality
Admittedly, on a visual level, Oshii adopts drastic choices relying on particularity in the Polish feature film Mother Jeanne of the Angels by Jerzy Kawalerowicz, but also in the cinema of Ingmar Bergman. Avalon derives from the first all its radicality, its rigidity and from the second, its mysterious aura (Bishop for example refers to Death in The Seventh Seal). In addition, Mamoru Oshii applies sepia filters to the film, which removes all color, all life on the screen (except for some food eaten during a disgusting food scene and of course during the discovery of the last level of Avalon).
And if this aesthetic is confusing, it has the merit of the work as it responds to the logic of the feature film and serves wonderfully the filmmaker’s presentation on the perception of reality. Contrary to Matrix that clearly separates the post-apocalyptic reality from that of the Matrix, Avalon question what is authentic or not so much so that there is no noticeable graphical difference between the game and Ash’s everyday life (except, it is true, the presence of tanks and guns).
Even more disturbing, one would almost endorse the message ofAvalon ; it is better for this population to sink body and soul into the game than to live in a dying world. This surprising message is very different from that of Matrix which requires us to open our eyes and remove the illusion created by the liberal society that surrounds us.
ghost in the game
So does Mamoru Oshii want his characters to undergo a chimera, the better to hide their face and actually dismiss the real problems that are plaguing their environment? Not exactly, or rather the answer turns out to be much more complex. At first glance, it can be accommodated in Baudelaire’s famous quote “everywhere lord of this world” (anywhere out of this world). In effect, Ash, like the other contestants, takes refuge in Avalon to find the spark, the semblance of the soul, in short, a reason to live, that is missing in his reality.
Because Avalon exacerbates feelings, courage, fear, anger, much more than in this environment that Ash considers to be reality. Indulging in the game, Ash goes in search of his humanity, saved only by the occasional presence of his dog.. This dog embodies the very cornerstone of the film, as much as the mysterious ghost inherited from ghost in the shell. Their uncertain appearances contrast with the tireless repetition of everyday events. For example, the behavior of the population seems to default to a video game, only the players do not seem to be affected by this phenomenon.
That is why, when Ash enters the so-called real level, we understand the true purpose of the feature film. Like King Arthur, Ash goes in search of the Grail that can free her from her prison. Because for Mamoru Oshii, only gaining freedom and openness to the world matters. The leitmotif of every talented artist and especially of every great work. AND Avalon it’s definitely a big deal.