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I just saw this film on the first day of its opening. I went in not
much about it except that it's a Japanese SF film and had good reviews. To
cut to the point, I liked it but I'm not sure I got it.
The atmosphere's great - the monotone visualizations, the expressionless stares of the heroine, Ash and the majestic and dark music stay in your mind. The fact that the film's in a foreign language (Polish as I found out) adds to the exotic and surreal feeling of the film. As it's all supposed to be a game anyway, there's very little emotion shown and therefore viewers are truly spectators only with little empathy with the characters.
Many people will be bored by this film, but if you're prepared to be a little patient and get sucked in, you'll love the look, feel and sound of it.
I have seen this film in 2001,when it was released in
Then I was rather disappointed. The plot seemed to be weak,
the drama-- boring.
But I changed my thought recently after having seen it again on
It isn't so boring, It is a film for our time, when traditional cinema is
dying or dead everywhere. It is a historical process,going not only in
cinema. In fact "Avalon" tells about the background of contemporary visual
medias--all our visual experiences by them is now digitalized and we can't
discern clearly where the Reality begins to be replaced by digital VR space.
Now VR very deeply intrudes into our life.
It makes our life something empty.
Now cinema depends on 3DCG and special effects even in the most usual
scenes--fog on the night garden, the landscape outside the
the color of actors' skin or even movements of their eyes...
But only a few directors makes films "about it".
Of course "Avalon" is not about cinema. Oshii had already made one film about cinema years before("Talking Head"), which is comical and grotesque but not so good. After that Oshii learned to disguise himself--use seemingly "commercial", "simple" stories or genres to tell things which is going on in the world. In this way he could keep making films with growing budget, with growing visual complexity, which is beyond the reach of other Japanese "art house"filmmakers. I had seen almost all the works of Mamoru Oshii,including his TV serials of 1970s. He is a skilled, unique director and his thought is recently going too far from usual audience, including lovers of old art house films. But his method--skillful use of commercial conditions--allows him to make films. It is a right way, when there is no other choice. From this point of view, "Avalon" is a good film for our time and of our time, though I can't use the word "masterpiece".
Being a fan of mamoru Oshii and being a patient viewer who can stand across very slow and long movies (I love, for instance, Tarkovski's works) I feel the need the tell the disappointment this film was. Yes, its visual is unique, but it is overused (the shot with the tramway that comes back three or four times). Yes, it's contemplative, but it lacks of magic, of a real mise-en-scène that would transcend the images. The apparitions of the ghost are in fact the few moments I felt the magic of Oshii's touch. I've read somewhere that this work was reminiscent of Bergman's... Come on, it's not because The Bishop reminds us of the Death in The Seventh Seal that this film is "bergmanian"! Sure I wanted to love this film, but its real problem is that you are never rewarded for your patience: it never comes up with a new story about virtual reality. Maybe it tells things we have already heard a bit differently, but nothing new really pops out. The open ending appears to me here as a hollow trick. I would advise you to watch (again) Patlabor, Ghost in the Shell, Jin-Roh, etc... rather than this splendid but boring film... (excuse my bad english btw)
This could have been an incredibly good movie but (and *not* because of the lack of action scenes) it remains some eye/ear candy : The story itself is boring and lacks a good plot. It ends like a Fastbinder movie : i.e. it doesn't really end. The music is excellent, so are the visual effects but, hey ! something is missing. That's it.
It made me sleepy. The constant repetition of everything (scenes, music,
scenarios) made me very tired.
So tired in fact, that I fell asleep through most of the middle of the
The only point of the film that I truely appreciated was the opera, and
was ruined towards the end by bad editing during the opera house scenes.
I must have been tired the time when I saw this film on our local cable TV channel. It had all the premises for me to like - new science fiction stuff, beautiful cinematography, great acting by the Polish team. However, the combination of the action game thriller with poetic science fiction (a la 2001 or Solaris) did not work for me. I could not follow the logic, the final was totally un-convincing and did not explain too much of what I had seen previously. If I have a chance to see it again, I will give it another chance. Maybe it was me after all, but maybe not...
Ok, I saw many superb comments on this movie - but all of them came from
people who don't know polish language. I suppose that when you don't
understand what the characters are talking about, the impression is much
I know polish language and I know these actors. Most of them usually act
polish soap operas - and their acting in Avalon is as bad as in
From the other hand - the pictures are simply great. Cooperation between
polish cameraman and japanese manga director is superb in this movie.
in city of Wroclaw ("dark part") and Warsaw ("Avalon"), the movie shows
sides of Poland (indirectly, of course ;)).
Summarizing - if you don't speak polish you should watch the movie, this strange language will make it even more fascinating. If you actually do, then watch this specific pearl : japanese sf movie with polish cast and english subtitles :)
For me it's 5 but for non-polish speaking audience - 7.
If nothing else, Avalon is a visually striking movie, precisely for its
lack of visual appeal. Whether it's the desert hellscapes of the
virtual reality game the film centres around or the muted colours of
the "real world", everything seems oppressively drab. It's an
interesting bit of cinematography that makes it easy to understand how
a person living in this dire, vaguely post-apocalyptic but maybe just
contemporary city could turn to outlandish and violent fantasy.
The script is, unfortunately, a bit of a shambles. Characters have cryptic conversations about the past or vague philosophical ideas. Interesting concepts are introduced only to be tossed aside. The ending is a steady unfolding of Twilight Zone-esque twists. It's basically Oshii indulging in his worst habits, basset hound and all. But what really rankles is that, despite this being ostensibly a film about video games, Oshii doesn't seem to grasp the appeal of games or gamer culture at all.
Maybe there's a lot of stuff here I didn't get, or maybe a lot of important context got left on the cutting room floor. It's certainly an ambitious project, and not an entirely unsuccessful one. If nothing else it's nice to see Oshii exploring new ground with a live action film. But in the end this film just leaves me feeling as cold as its ambivalent and ambiguous protagonist.
(Also, apparently the English version -- dub and sub -- includes expository dialogue not in the original. Who does that?)
In the near future, many disillusioned people are addicted to virtual
reality games. Sexy cigarette-smoking Malgorzata Foremniak (as Ash) is
excellent at the popular war-game "Avalon" and gets paid to play. She
attracts new players and wants to increase her difficulty level. A
loner in real life, Ms. Foremniak once played with a team. She turned
solo when her Jerzy Gudejko (as Murphy) and playmates broke up under
mysterious circumstances. Their fate is an obsession, along with a
strange player who begins to stalk our heroine at play. The game is
illegal and strangely not much fun, but the cinematography by Grzegorz
Kedzierski is very nice. It might have been more effective to vary the
tones a little more between realities, although perhaps "Avalon" does.
The film is presented in sepia-like fashion until late in the game,
which may mean absolutely nothing...
***** Avalon (1/20/01) Mamoru Oshii ~ Malgorzata Foremniak, Jerzy Gudejko, Dariusz Biskupski, Bartek Swiderski
Foreword: when you hear people talking in Polish in the movie it is not
because you got a ripped version dubbed in Polish, the movie is a
This film is reminiscent of Matrix and Cashern, but only on the outside. The movie starts as a depiction of some future World of Warcraft, where one's real life is inside the game, not outside it. For someone that hasn't played a massive multi-player game yet or at least a dungeons and dragons game, the beginning won't make much sense.
After a whole movie about people having Classes and playing in Parties and Completing Missions, you get to a disappointing end. I think that the music, graphics and the general atmosphere make it an interesting and watchable movie, but the script lacks substance.
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