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COULD DREAMS BECOME A CONTESTED SPACE? :
THE BLURRING BOUNDARIES OF REAL AND VIRTUAL IN PAPRIKA
Münire Bozdemir
Abstract: This paper is presenting an analysis of opposition and clash of the Virtual and the Real as
presented in the Japanese animated film “Paprika” (2006) by Satoshi Kon. The consequence of this
clash is the change in the perception of the “dream space” which is experienced both by the audience
and the main characters in the film. In my analysis I am adopting a Deleuzian understanding of the
Virtual and Real which he defines in relation to “actuality”. According to him “actual” does not exist
in opposition to the “real” but to the “virtual”. Both virtual and actual are real, but only the actual has
physical reality and can be considered as (being) present which Deleuze claims to be surrounded by
virtual shadows.
The actual, according to Deleuze, includes the real acts in the present and experienced reality while
the virtual refers to the potential of “becoming anything in very unpredictable ways.” This issue of
unpredictability becomes very questionable in the film “Paprika".
The film, being about a
technological device, DC mini, that serves for watching and interfering in people's dreams with the
aim of psychological treatment, presents layers of reality and virtuality. Moreover the boundary
between reality and virtuality becomes blurred after the device's pilferage by the headmaster of the
DC mini’s production company. With the claim of “protecting the sacred dream world from the evils of
science” he becomes the “Master Brain” of a collective dream he himself creates. As a result reality
and dream world merge as people participate in a carnival like dream-reality in which they can
transform into various objects such as dolls, guitars, cellphones. However, other than the Master
Brain, only three people seem to remain “conscious” and (at least to some extent) in control of what
is happening: a detective and two of the psychologists in charge of the DC mini. These three people
fight against the Master Brain and restore the world to its usual “reality” which makes it possible to
question the difference between the two worlds represented in the film.
Do we really have the virtual potential of “becoming anything” in very “unpredictable” ways, or has
this possibility already been foreseen or determined by some institutions, other than technology,
acting in society in visible or invisible ways? How can the actual and the virtual be distinguished from
each other? Are the boundaries really very obvious in the usual reality of the everyday life represented
in the film? (How) do the blurring boundaries of the virtual and the real challenge the privacy of
dreams and make it seem like a physical and even a contested space that is invaded by members of
different social classes or institutions? Do the blurring boundaries really bring freedom and equality or
are they lost in collectivity? These are the questions this paper will address through an analysis of
selected scenes from the film “Paprika”.
Keywords: Virtual, actual, dreams, contested space, animation