Sunday, 27 November 2016
Innocence, Mamoru Oshii's follow-up to 1995's Ghost in the Shell, imagines a future full of cybernetically augmented people with various hard and wireless data ports woven into their bodies, allowing them instantaneous access to all-recorded information. Frustratingly, this cerebral elevation hasn't brought about a profound change in the behaviour of mankind. Old habits die hard. Criminals still have various, horrifying, skin trades cornered while stock job roles and interpersonal patterns hold sway in the lives of the lawful.
Basic conversation has evolved in step with this mind-expanding progress though, transformed from bland, interchangeable pleasantries into passive-aggressive jousts. Participants use knowingly obscure, philosophical musings to bully their quarry into compliant silence. There's a sense in Innocence, especially since we spend so little time in the company of civilians, that an entire class of people have sealed themselves inside plastic and metal fortresses that enable them to mainline statistics and broadcast ideology. Understanding only their reality, Innocence's denizens are lonely and isolated, forever puzzling out the exact connections that anchor them to their physical world.
Innocence's plot revolves around a politically sensitive investigation into a brand of sex doll who are malfunctioning, killing their affluent owners then tearing themselves apart. In deference to their status as coveted but ultimately shameful product, the toys themselves are diminutive and sad looking, their bodies designed with the same super-articulated care as expensive, Japanese action figures. Interestingly, the automatons spark a sense of kinship rather than revulsion in lead detective Batou. After all, he is himself a piece of dense, dutiful machinery. For the finale Oshii cuts loose, trading static posturing for maximum movement. Kenji Kawai's wonderful The Ballade of Puppets: The Ghost Awaits in the World Beyond thunders along the soundtrack while a liquid lithe Batou dodges crumbling gantries and an army of high-kicking drones to breach and clear his way to a resolution.