Air Doll (Kuki Ningyo) [2009]

Posted by :: sixtwentyseven :: | Posted in , | Posted on Friday, August 06, 2010


That's the verdict I will give for Air Doll. Mind my readers, I seldom watch what I consider "artistic" movies, but I happen to recognise the lead of this movie, hence I thought I might give it a try. What I didn't realise was that I did not expect that I would feel that much for a movie since I last watch "Babel".

"A life-size Air Doll named Nozomi(starring Bae Doo Na) “lives” in a shabby apartment in Tokyo. Her middle-aged master(starring Itsuji Itao) talks to her, puts her in a bath and makes love with her every day after he returns from work. This routine life is disrupted when fantasy turns into reality. One morning, the Air Doll suddenly comes to life, filled with a soul. Exploring the world around her, she soon falls in love with Junichi(starring ARATA), a video store clerk. She discovers what it means to live, to love, to be lonely. Everything is going well until one day when her hand is accidentally cut and she begins to deflate in front of Junichi…"
(credits: Japan Film Festival Singapore 2010)

Apparently when the movie was first shown during the Cannes Movie festival, the reviews for it was mixed. They critise the film for a lack of substance, but they praised Bae Doo Na for her exquisite acting. However, there are other reports that describes the film as "an achingly beautiful meditation on loneliness and longing in the city" and suggested its themes would particularly appeal to female audiences.
(credits: Wikipedia).

My take on the movie is that although the movie travels at a poetic leisurely pace, none of the scenes in the movie is boring. In fact, I like the director's artistic delivery of each scene. Also, some critics think that the movie is too long, but I beg to differ as the length of the movie is required to introduce each sub character's problem in this lonely city landscape:

- An old lady who is lonely, has dementia and always apologises to others for no reason;
- A small neighborhood policeman who yearns for big time action and satisfy his yearning by constantly renting gangster movies;
- Nozomi's master who can't communicate with woman but instead buys a life-size doll to fulfill his sexual pleasures;
- A young boy with a fetish for maid uniform;
- A graduate who gave up finding a job in the city and yet not willing to go back to her hometown;
- A father who is divorced and can't communicate with his daughter;
- A retiree whose life was lived always being a substitute for others;
- A receptionist who is past her prime and is not noticed by anyone.

These small characters is especially empathized in a memorable quote spoken by the doll in the movie:

"Life is constructed in a way
that no one can fulfilled it alone.
Just as it's not enough for flowers
to have pistils and stamens.
An insect or a breeze
must introduce a pistil to a stamen.

It seems the world is the summation of Others
and yet,
we neither know nor are told
that we will fulfill each other.
We lead our scattered lives,
perfectly unaware of each other...
Or at times, allowed to find
the Other's presence disagreeable
Why is it,
that the world is constructed so loosely?"

Another reason to give the movie top marks is the acting by the lead actress Bae Doo Na. Given the plot, Bae Doo Na is required to do quite a number of naked scenes in the movie (after all, unless the owner dresses the doll, it is usually naked). And I do mean there are a lot of nudity scenes in the movie. For that reason, I salute Bae for the braveness shown. However, I was more impressed at how she portray the expressions of being a "live" air doll. Her expression is starkly similar to the expression of a real doll and throughout the movie she has made sure that her hand movements resemble that of a blown up doll. Furthermore, a lot of scenes require her to keep her eyes wide open as well as not to blink throughout the shot.

Overall, as what most reviews mention, after watching the movie, one may leave the cinema with a heavy heart and a deep sigh, trying to feel one's long-lost soul and pondering on the meaning of ephemeral life. I did too, and I started to realise, maybe I'm not different from that air doll afterall....

If you're in Singapore, you can catch it at the Japanese Film Festival that is running from Aug 19-29. Tickets are moving real fast so do grab your tickets!