Rupert Sanders’ Ghost in the Shell – A Splinter in the Machine

December 18, 2017 9:24 pm Published by 2 Comments

Consumerists dream of bio-mechanical enhancements, while free spirits are commodified by the corporate machine.

Today you accept the cookies, consent to apps tracking you, let spy gadgets in your pocket and home. Tomorrow, in a Sci-Fi extrapolation, people depend on synthetic bodies or the odd bio enhancement to make life better. This well-being depends on the corporations of the future noir genre. It’s an existence of just being here automatically with the reason “why” disappearing into the back of the mind. Numbness with the occasional outburst of aggression and entertainment. Loneliness and alienation are the new natural state in the all-encompassing nameless city-state. This is the world of Scarlett Johansson‘s robotic special agent, a woman-machine hybrid for hire, an asset like today’s social networks users in a you-are-the-product business plan.

Dark future corporations today seem outdated, have become an annoying cliché and people are indifferent to them after the too big to fail incidents of the early 21st century. Oblivious to cyberpunk overload and the whitewashed friendly megacorps, Ghost in the Shell’s thick ambiance of post-humanity is as overbearing as it is timely. Like in all of the series entries, the cybernetically augmented world is striking, terrifying and positioned at a small step away from the real world. There is a significant number of mood scenes and while the idiosyncrasy level isn’t as pronounced as in Oshii’s, it’s much more thoughtful than your average blockbuster. Every wizard-quality shot of technology effacing humanity, and there are a lot of them, is emotionally charged and arresting.

Sanders’ visual style is not organic (no free flowing or hand-held camera), but strictly composed with sharp angles and calculated cuts, like we witness the story from inside the computer. The mesmerising dehumanised vision recalls the Red Desert (1964) notion that the artist shouldn’t judge civilisation’s development as good or bad. However artificial, this is the environment we (eventually) live in and beauty can be found anywhere. The dystopian city is enticing, because it is a living habitat, not because of aesthetic or moral considerations. A cracked human image, disfigured behind shattered glass, is just one of the delicious, embarrassingly good and suggestive visuals. Hard-hitting gunfights and stunning visions of Major’s damaged body extend the anime with real-life photography and suggest physical pain. It’s a departure from Disney’s harmless, frictionless spectacle.

The skyscraper-sized hologram ads aren’t just designer flourishes, but rather a sincere comment on our times. In highly-developed Far East, skin whitening products have been heavily advertised for decades. The famous Hollywood actress playing the Major also meta-plays a famous Hollywood actress, an ideal for many. People everywhere crave consuming goods – gadgets, fashion, glitter. On the other hand, the souls of society’s refugees are primed to be plucked by morality-free corporations. Rebellious, inspirational and underground facets of culture sooner or later become commercialized, like any alternative music style becoming the norm in TV ads. Invariably, every system devours and corrupts its rebels, because they operate within the limits of that system and can only dream of being outside the box. Dissidents and anarchists are swallowed by the system and appropriated by their enemy, which constantly adapts, not unlike The Matrix.

The eternal traveling soul has fascinated our culture forever, in myths, legends and religion. GitS makes its contribution by using technology and science, instead of magic. Its resurrection story is scientific-fictional and tangible. Here, the recognisable human shape is broken, replaced by technology, but the soul is everlasting and transcendent. The traditional birth/assembly scene is serene, with inanimate hardware waiting for the electrical spark of life. A life of a quasi-human being with doubts, struggles and emotions in the manufactured shell of effects-laden cinema.

Categorised in:

This post was written by rado


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *