Recommendation: Mamoru Oshii Interview

by criticalhit009

I recently watched this interview with Mamoru Oshii from TIFF in 2014. I learned a lot, and it really connected the dots for me in regards to Oshii’s filmmaking. A few observations:

This interview pulls together all the pieces my partner and I have noticed in the films of Mamoru Oshii, and in particular his fascination with technology in his films. Oshii notes that he grew up during rapid modernization of Japan post-WWII. In particular, he also comments how he feels alienated from Tokyo, his birth city, because it is such a rapidly modernizing city, always changing.  Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade reflects this sentiment, as a character questions what used to exist where a pile of rubble now stands, commenting on the lapses in geographical memory among a rapidly developing city.

Jin-Roh takes an alternate view of modern Japan. Part of his Kerberos Saga, which envisions an alternate Japan where Germany won WWII, the film imagines such rapid technological development coming from a different Western power. In short, post-war Japan and its development facilitated by America weighs heavily on Oshii’s mind and manifests within his work.

Oshii notes that, in contrast to the advice James Cameron gave him, he creates the world of his films first, then the story, and then the characters. This comment makes sense in terms of his filmography, as Oshii’s films are particularly well-known for their world building, be it an alternative universe, or a technologized future. (This world building is something the Wachowski sisters took to quite well, as their Matrix trilogy is deeply indebted to Ghost in the Shell.)

Oshii’s comments near the end of the interview reflect his work as well, noting that phones function like an extension of our being, a reflection of the combination of humans and technology that takes place in his films. Curiously, Oshii asserts that we need to adapt to technology, which is a technologically determinist mode of thinking, as it is humans that make technology, not the other way around. But his comment that technology doesn’t change perhaps gets at an essentialism in how we connect to technology as human beings, though I could see who the comment could be twisted towards a more transhumanist bent.

Regardless, this interview was particularly invigorating in its middle section, and is worth a look.