Sunday, 17 May 2009

Osamu Tezuka "Mermaid" (1964)

Osamu Tezuka, "Father of Anime", "the Japanese Walt Disney" and director of today's classic movie Mermaid, one of the treasures of animation. A boy sits daydreaming by the sea in some far off totalitarian state where it is wrong to dream. He rescues a fish stranded on the beach and beneath his gaze the fish transforms into a beautiful mermaid; he plays music using a passing cloud for a flute whilst she plays piano using the waves as a keyboard. They cavort in the sea in an idyllic sequence until he carries her home to his parents' home. However the girl he sees is not the fish his parents see. Refusing to relinquish his dream he is subjected to the full attentions of a regime for whom lack of conformity is anathema. Torture, conditioning, indoctrination, re-education are potent weapons of state and the boy is beaten down just as absolutely as in any Orwellian satire. Or is he? The choice of music is a key feature in the success of the movie as Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun by Claude Debussy establishes an ethereal atmosphere. However the apparatus of police state and rockpools in which lovers play could hardly form a greater contrast in a sparingly drawn but always exquisitely designed animation, full of haunting scenes that etches one's memory. A masterpiece and one of my favourite movies of all time, Tezuka's warning about the dangers he detected in his society is ultimately an inspiring if unsettling vision that has aged not one jot. Required viewing.

1 comment:

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