Sunday, May 30, 2010

Racking Up the Spice of Paprika


Well, I’ve now both seen and read Paprika. With no offense meant to author Yasutaka Tsutsui, I think I liked the movie better. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy the book. I did. Very much so. Knowing, however, that Tsutsui had been pleased with the movie makes me feel less guilty. More on that in a bit.

Let me present a paradox: The novel and the film are the same, but altogether different.

It’s as if they are telling the same story two different ways. I had expected the book to be unlike the movie (or vice-versa), but I didn’t realize so much of it had been changed in the adaptation. To be clear, the basic idea of each is identical. Computers are being used as a form of psychiatric treatment by way of the DC Mini, a device that allows therapists to access (that is to say record and enter) patients’ dreams. The device is stolen and used to drive some people insane (by projecting the dreams of a schizophrenic onto their pscyhe) and ultimately unforeseen-ly merging dreams and reality. It’s up to those who created the device to ascertain who pilfered and abused them and then set things right. That’s the nutshell. How that concept plays out, though, turns out to be not the same at all.

The main difference, as I see it, comes in that the film version of Paprika presents itself as a mystery. The characters don’t know who is behind the theft and are thrown on some red herrings (albeit related to the actual misdeeds) along the way. In the book, it’s easy to see 'whodunit.' No, it’s not because I knew so from the film. The novel flat out states who is responsible. And the characters guess immediately, too. I have to say I missed not knowing what in the hell is going on along with the characters.

Another big difference is that part of the central focus of the movie is really only a bit scene in the book. In the film, it’s amplified to a delightfully sickening proportion and keeps re-occurring (as per the driving force of the plot.) The “scene” is the Parade. I kept waiting for it to show up. I’d gotten nearly all the way through the book and it didn’t even have a line of it. Then, finally, a parade is mentioned, but it’s not at all like the movie. And it has no bearing on the plot in the book, other than being one of the manifestations of dreams combining with the real world. Rather curious, since it factors into the very fabric of the film. (I'd mentioned to others such as Josiecat and Buttercup who love the movie along with me and they, too, couldn't fathom how the Parade could not be in the book.)

I found that many, many characters and events are taken out for the movie. In my other post I had said that the background and traits of a character in the book belonged to someone entirely else in the movie. I suspected, however, that the movie’s guy would show up in the book, as the plot sort of dictates that he must. (He’s an investigating policeman.) Well, I’m happy that I’d been right. Konakawa did show up in the book and does in fact play a very important role. In the movie, though, he’d been combined with the other guy for the purpose of simplification. I’d suspected that. And yes, this pared down combo works quite well.

Yet another character changes nearly completely. In the film Inui is the Chairman and confined to a power-chair. In the book his personality is the same but he's not the biggest cheese nor is he crippled. (Yes, the change is justified as per the movie's particular plotline.)

I would sigh with relief each time a part of the movie appeared in the novel. Like the creepy 32-foot Japanese doll. Yup, it’s in both of them. Other specific parts of the book are in the movie, too. Whether it be the state/condition of a character’s room, Paprika’s outfit, a particular pose or a fact about the way the DC Mini devices are utilized, it had been a joy to see how small bits of the book made its way into the film.

Yet so much of the movie is not in the book. And vice-versa. The wonderful visual imagery of the film, especially the crazed dream sequences like the rippling hallway, Paprika floating around on a cloud, the roots of a tree acting as tentacles – none of these are described in the book. Instead it treats us to a whole host of other bizarre dream sequences and odd manifestations. In a way, it had been a joy. More outlandish places where Paprika and friends roam! Plus the book gives a lot more backstory (but of course) as well as a different driving force of the scientists being up for the Nobel Prize.

In the post about finding and starting to read the book I wrote: A place that exists via the internet and dreams, so to speak, in the film turns out to be a real place (in what we deem reality) in the book. Well, that never changes…not really. When I got to the end of the book, I saw where filmmaker Satoshi Kon obtained the notion to make the alteration…and thus another “satisfying connection” between the two arose. Actually, that happened quite bit - a sort of "A-ha! connection" creatively reconfigured from an event or idea from the book.

What really threw me for a loop, however, is that my two absolute favorite parts of the movie do not appear in the book. Well, again, not exactly.

At the very beginning of the movie, Paprika is shown moving in, through and about pictures. In a dream-like way, she uses billboards, video screens and such to ‘travel’ around the city. She can also manipulate reality to an extent. Absorbing herself into paintings and the like occurs throughout the movie. Nope, it's not in the book. However, seeing where this idea came from is very easy. In the novel, the therapists can become “immersed” into the dream they are watching on-screen and the concept of those monitoring the dream talking to those dreaming via a billboard depiction does happen in the book. And then, during all the turmoil of the climax, someone does indeed stick arms into a TV screen and pull someone else out. So again, it’s not exactly alien to the book. But using it as a constant, as an actual entering and a mode of travel happens only in the film.

My absolute favorite part in the movie is... well, I don’t want to spoil it for you. Suffice to say it throws you for a loop when watched and later allows a very great (but simple) line. It’s just wonderful. And… it’s not in the book. If it is at all, it’s merely a suggestion of a hint of whisper misheard.

So, all in all, both are very enjoyable. But I prefer the tweaks of the movie. And I am not alone. For in the extra content on the disc, author Tsutsui says of the very part of the movie that had been my favorite: It’s not in the novel, but I thought it a great idea and I immediately wished I had put it in my book. The thing is it would have been overly complex in print. I would have been too afraid it could confuse my readers. It’s something that really takes advantage of the cinematic format. He may be right about it not working in print, I’m not sure. I’m just glad that the bit is well-loved by him, too.

I’d watched the extra/documentary content on the disc when I first saw the movie years ago, and I retained some of what had been there. For instance, I knew the author had liked the movie. I just didn’t recall specifics. So as I read the novel, seeing the resemblance and discord merging like the dreams and reality of the movie, I felt better about being confused, upset or disenchanted at having liked the movie a wee bit better.

What I (re)learned from re-watching all of them, however, is that the goal had never been to be exactly faithful to the book. Yasutaka Tsutsui said: Regurgitating the novel is boring. Also: I like it. The story is very simplified in the movie. I think it makes the story more forceful… I felt the core concepts of my story were very solid so I wasn’t worried about how loosely it was adapted…Because he left his imagination run wild, it became a visually stunning film.

Ah, okay. So the author wanted to see “another take” on his own story. Well, that is indeed what he received. As he said, the core remains. When thinking of both the book and the movie as story only, the tracks align pretty well. But the train cars running on them and their schedules are almost all from another station.

The reasons behind me being attracted to and so partiuclarly moved or inspired by this story, however, resonate much better in the movie. And a great deal has to do with what’s revealed in that cherished part. The one that Yasutaka Tsutsui had wished he’d put in the book.

So we’re left with two versions of the same story. Would my opinion have been different if I’d read the book first? I guess I’ll never know. Either way, I’m thrilled to have entered the fantasy realm of the tale of Paprika. Twice - like one in reality and one in a dream.

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