When I was younger, I discovered that I had an ability that others didn’t.
I could dream of a place and instantly be there. I could watch a piece of media and instantly insert myself into it.
I thought this was pretty cool. After all, I entertained myself this way. It also made writing a piece of cake. Though now that I look back, these were signs of dissociation.
I found out later that not everyone can escape from reality so easily. At least, not to the extent that I did.
For this reason, Satoshi Kon’s “Perfect Blue” frightened me, yet made me feel validated when I first watched it as a 21-year-old.
I was aware that it was a psychological thriller and had heard lots of viewers praise the film long before I ever saw it. I even knew it’d inspired other iconic films like Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan.” I was excited, as a lover of spooky things and an outright nerd.
And yet, I was somehow surprised to be frightened by the film. Movies don’t typically scare me.
There are no monsters or paranormal activity. Instead, the monster under the bed is a concept – the thought of losing oneself. To the perception of others, or to one’s distorted self-perception. I’m not sure I see that often in other films, but I knew that it frightened me.
It’s also possible that I just saw myself within the protagonist. I’m no 1990s J-pop idol, but I understood Mima Kirigoe’s desire to break away from archetypes.
As an idol, her identity existed to cater to male viewers through her clothing, image, and career. She did this to the extent that it limited the types of jobs she could take on as a singer with a “pure” image.
Her attempt to break out of this archetype ends up endangering her life with the same men – and endorsing women – who pushed for her compliance in the first place.
I appreciate how the film highlights how distressing it can be to venture out of people’s perceptions, and how it’s even more frightening to do so when you’re a public figure. After all, careers based on image commonly chew women up and then spit them out when they’re no longer wanted.
This constant fear drives the plot of the movie. While the protagonist may want to grow as a person, she doubts her ability to do so. Under so much stress, she can’t differentiate her identity from the public’s perception. Her thoughts and environment begin to blend into one another so much to the point that the viewers can’t decipher it either.
The movie essentially starts becoming a fever dream, kind of like the ones that make you hallucinate after waking up.
Dreams can be terrifying. Dissociation just as much, if not more. Countless people lose their memory to hypothetical situations they make up in their heads.
If times are bad enough, people might block out memories. Sometimes, they may even believe they’re someone else.
The protagonist encapsulates these stress factors well, from beginning to end. Though I’m sure it wasn’t his intention, Satoshi Kon sheds a light on what dissociation can look like in people.
Isn’t it great to exist in the present? Out of all the versions of ourselves we’ll be, we get to know the us from now.