Avalon (2001)

8/10 - Unique aesthetic experience
Reviewed by Simon on 18 May 2012

Directed by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell, Patlabor) and possibly the most expensive Japanese movie ever or something, Avalon is a curious mixture of live action and CG that presents quite a unique visual experience. The story is based around a virtual reality game (Avalon), and one of its top players (Ash), who begins hearing rumours about a secret level and decides to go exploring. It was shot entirely on location in Poland, in Polish, which was quite a bizarre choice. This is perhaps one of the reasons it doesn't feel remotely like a Japanese movie. In fact, it doesn't feel remotely like anything else.

The CGI usage isn't that heavy, just limited to the scenes inside the game. There aren't too many of these, but they are simply incredible. It's quite a violent game (as games usually are) but this is lessened by the fact that people turn flat and shatter into little polygons when they get shot. The mix here of live action (with the Polish army providing heavy weaponry) and CGI / image manipulation is really effective. The visual style is carried out of the game too, with a heavily desaturated image, and dark run-down Polish locations & raggedy costumes being the fashion - all feels vaguely World War II. The production design throughout the movie is excellent. Very nicely shot too.

Outside the games, the action disappears, and is replaced by intrigue. It's not a dialogue heavy movie by any standards, so most of the intrigue is carried simply by the atmosphere that the visuals and soundtrack create. Did I mention how fantastic the soundtrack by Kenji Kawai (GHOST IN THE SHELL) is? This isn't a movie where you'll get far if you keep trying to stop and analyse it all - I doubt if it makes much sense - just get absorbed into the mood.

The ending of the movie provides absolutely no resolution to the story whatsoever, but I didn't let this worry me. When it finished I wanted to watch it again immediately, but managed to resist since it was already midnight . Guess I liked it quite a bit :D Probably not a movie for everyone though.

Crew

Director
Mamoru Oshii
Soundtrack
Kenji Kawai

See also