Angel’s Egg: We all have an egg to carry

May 30, 2009

angel's egg

Beauty of Angel’s Egg is timeless. For me this 1986 vintage film is more beautiful and captivating than most flashy CG animated works today. Aesthetics aside, its value and meaning remain elusive to many simply because it relies too heavily on obscure Christian symbolic imagery. What does it all mean? One must remember that Oshii once aspired to become a priest, before he changed his mind and chose the path of a director. Oshii also claims that the movie is very personal for him. If so, can one see Angel’s Egg as the death of Oshii’s innocent faith in Christianity? I won’t pretend to have found my answer to many symbolisms in the film but I do want to share my views so far. In this post, I will be talking about a number of scenes/imagery and what I thought and felt about each one, before offering my humble attempt at an interpretation.

snapshot20090209135626

The Christ and his God

I think that is the conclusion most people arrived at. If you ask me, it almost seems as if Oshii is using the man to project his present self and his loss of faith in Christianity, for the reasons which will become apparent later.

snapshot20090209140058

The girl and her egg

What is inside the egg? Faith? Innocence? Or her soul? And who  is the girl? Representation of a typically faithful follower of Christianity? Or perhaps Oshii’s youthful self in the past, when he was aspiring to become a priest. Impossible to answer. However, it is worth mentioning that it looked almost as if the girl gave birth to the egg. Without the girl, there is no egg. Without an egg, the girl has nothing to carry.

angel's egg

The movie opens with a little girl's pale hand, which moved around an invinsible space, as if cherishing it, before finally growing old and dark into a man's hand. Gripping the thing it held firmly, as if trying to break it. This 30 seconds segment, more or less, summarises what the movie is about for me.

angel's egg

The Water

The girl seems to have a hobby of collecting water. Collecting water is pretty much what she has been doing all this time. Nobody knows why. I am not even sure if she knows why. But she seems to be enjoying it. And isn’t that what really matters?

angel's egg

Worth noting that the man does not destroy the egg even when he has the power to do so. Perhaps what he wants is to first gain her trust

fish

Fish, Fishermen and the buildings

Jesus once said to his followers, “Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men”

The city is inhabited by countless fishermen, who remain in stone form (like gargoyles) until the shadows of fish start swimming on the walls and streets. They throw spears at the shadows but destroy the buildings in process. The girl tells the man,

“Even though the fish aren’t really anywhere, still they chase after them”.

It is most likely that Oshii wanted these fishermen as a metaphor for the followers of blind faith. They chase the shadows blindly and by trying to catch the intangible, they end up destroying the tangible.

angel's egg

angel's egg

I'm sure Oshii has a taste for installation art

angel's egg

The man’s story of Noah’s Ark

Noah sends a dove to fly and bring back a part of the land. But the dove never came back. They waited and waited, hoping and believing that the dove would come back, until they turned to stones.

angel's egg

The girl believed that the bird was inside the egg. When she told the man about its beating inside, the man says it's her imagination.

And of course, you all know what happened after the girl went asleep.

So Angel’s Egg is in a sense about danger and folly of blind faith. We mustn’t chase shadows that can never be caught. We mustn’t drown from waiting for things that may never return. But then, how about the girl’s genuine faith in her egg? As mentioned before, without the girl there is no egg. Without an egg the girl has nothing to carry. What are we without eggs to cherish and put faith in? I do not know if we will, one day, find our eggs broken and empty, and our hands older and darker. But we should still have our own eggs, whatever they may be, to carry and cherish. Perhaps, this is what it means to have a soul.

My apologies if anything here sounds far-fetched. Maybe the film should be approaached just as an enigmatic visual masterpiece, with no attempt at trying to spell what it actually means.

angel's egg

::Screenshot Gallery::

Advertisements

19 Responses to “Angel’s Egg: We all have an egg to carry”

  1. Martin Says:

    I find interpretations like this helpful, not least because even after all this time I still don’t understand what the film is trying to tell me. The haunting beauty of the imagery and music are enough to make it worthwhile on their own though. Maybe the fact that it isn’t CG is what makes the animation so timeless perhaps?

    Taking Oshii’s background into account the religious imagery does make more sense to me though. When I last watched it I was asking myself “why is a Japanese film maker using Christian symbolism?” so perhaps the next time I watch this some of the plot points will make more sense.

    I guess I’ll have to rewatch it now, huh? 🙂

  2. gaguri Says:

    Yea, the fact that this was all done completely by hand is part of it. We are product of our time, and so is everything around us. And CG has now become the everyday tool of present animation industry. I am not going to rule out the possibility that CG works can be timeless, but I can say that the beauty of Angel’s Egg is enduring.

    And you are free to watch it again, as many times again (until you lose sanity :D), though I still think that this work shouldn’t be approached so intellectually perhaps.

  3. Hige Says:

    I spent an age downloading a hueg, sexy video of this only to find the soundtrack won’t play on this machine (Macs -_-). This won’t stop me from watching it, though; both your blog here and AWO’s podcast will serve as useful companions when I finally get the chance to be overwhelmed by its avant-garde gorgeousness. The delay will only make me saviour it more.

  4. gaguri Says:

    Oh, I highly, highly recommend watching it with sound. Don’t ever watch it without sound…I mean I love the visuals but its haunting soundtrack is really sometihng else.

    I myself didn’t find the podcast useful, I thought it rambled on without much informations, but that might be because I absolutely loathe anime podcasts in general (only reason I downloaded that one was because it appaerntly had great infos on Angel’s Egg…which imo wasn’t true).

  5. vendredi Says:

    Now I have to rewatch this after reading this. Never thought to think about the movie in terms of Christian symbolism – granted, I wasn’t really watching the movie so much for Oshii but rather for Yoshitaka Amano’s aesthetic style, so plot really wasn’t a factor the first time through.

  6. gaguri Says:

    I think Yoshitaka Amano inspired art is almost half of its appeal, but perhaps there could be more to the story than it would appear. I was hoping more for discussion of different interpretations with this post, but I am happy to have at least encouraged more people to watch Angel’s Egg again.

  7. Shadowmage Says:

    I’ve finally seen this movie. I’ll probably write a review for it eventually. However, as for you analysis…

    “The Christ and his God”

    Right now I’m curious as to whether I should interpret the man as Christ himself or a follower of Christ. If the man is Christ (which he ostensibly should be since he’s carrying a cross), then the movie is quite positive since he has sown the faith of the girl in her egg and given her eternity (as a stone figure). On the other hand, there is some evidence that he just a jaded follower who has lost God (Oshii himself as you’ve stated). The strongest evidence of this is the fact that the breaking of the egg was presented as a moment great of tragedy not salvation.

    Due to how the movie decided to present the “climax”, I’m leaning towards the latter.

    “The girl and her egg”

    Throughout the movie, I saw the egg as hope, but I suppose it can be seen as faith since the girl cherished it much like a pregnant woman would her fetus despite having no evidence of what’s inside.

    “Fish, Fishermen and the buildings”

    Hmmm… I’m not sure the biblical passage you’ve stated actually applies, but I believe your actual analysis is a plausible explanation.

    As for your overall interpretation of blind faith, I do agree that the ingredients for arguing this side exist, but I wonder if the movie goes so far as to say not to go down this direction (as you’ve touched on in your counterpoint). The world in Angel’s Egg was shown as dreary and desolate. Isn’t any hope regardless of whether it is true or not necessary in such a world?

  8. gaguri Says:

    Yea I too think the man represents a cynical side of Oshii who has lost faith. But I wonder if Oshii wanted to also portray the Christ differently. Something I do not have lot of knowledge of so pass…

    I think the egg means a lot of things. Obviously you can see it as a faith in the context of our discussion. But I think it can be seen as hope and innocence for a lot of people, including the followers of Christianity.

    And I too agree that hope, regardless of whether it is true or not, is necessary for all of us. We need ‘something’ to carry, without anything to carry, what are we living for exactly? For some, it could be faith. I just don’t think blind faith is health, and something Oshii is trying to warn us against.

    Oh, and looking forward to your review :D. I hope you will rate it with great fairness, keeping in mind that it is an art film, and it does what art films should do very well!

  9. Milkymagic Says:

    You’ve made a lot of good analysis on this, and I’m glad we’re both in agreeance that this OVA could very well be about Oshii’s past faithful self his newfound loss of faith in Christianity. After all, the OVA begins with the girl asking “Who? Who are you?” and interestingly enough the man later in the OVA asks the same of her, in which neither answer each other’s question. It feels like throughout the course of this production, the girl and the man are trying to figure out who the other really is.

    A hypothesis I’ve had is that the girl is actually the angel that the title refers to, and sees it as her duty to protect the egg to bring the great bird inside it back to life. If the girl is indeed an angel, and with the egg being empty as revealed in the end, then the message may be that we cannot rely on angels for protection, or to a greater extent, a god for salvation.

    The soldier may not even be Christ, maybe it’s just a man who wishes to know the truth behind the egg, and he tells the girl that there’s nothing inside it. True enough, with the egg empty, the man feels justified in his quest for knowledge and leaves the girl behind. The cross that the man bears could be just a sign of his former faith, but his mannerisms insist that it has clearly been fading from him, and a quest for identity has instead taken him over. The girl then falls into the ravine chasing him, and loses her spritual (and perhaps sexual) innocence as she seems to grow mature as a result of her heartbreaking experience. Or perhaps the egg is also a sign of rebirth, such as the resurrection of Jesus celebrated on Easter, and the girl is reborn as a beacon on the vessel that lands by the island.

    Another segment that interested me was when the man told a passage about floodwaters coming to destroy the works of man, and after he was finished it started raining until the town was flooded.

    A quote from Oshii that always intrigued me was this one:

    “When it comes down to it, I think the director doesn’t know everything about the movie. Everyone always things if you want to know something, talk to the director. I don’t think that’s true. I think the answer lies inside every single viewer.”

    That’s an approach I’ve always appreciated from him, it’s like you can get so much out of this production when thinking about what it means, and applying it to your own life.

    Sorry about the late response, but I at least put in the effort to make the response worthwhile by watching it again and doing a little research.

    Keep up the good work with the blog, and I shall leave you with one last Oshii quote that I found very intriguing:

    “All religions start in pessimism and end in optimism. I admit I am a religious type, but I do not believe in any specific relgion.”

  10. Milkymagic Says:

    Realized I had a typo with that quote, it should’ve went something like this:

    “When it comes down to it, I think the director doesn’t know everything about the movie. Everyone always thinks if you want to know something, talk to the director. I don’t think that’s true. I think the answer lies inside every single viewer.”

    I guess when I jam pack stuff into my head and type it out, it comes out a little sloppy. >_<

  11. gaguri Says:

    Haha, don’t worry about typos, and nice to see that you haven’t lost an ounce for love of angel’s egg 😀

    Your view of girl as an angel failing to protect us is interesting. It’s kind of like seeing the man as Christ and failing to save us the followers (the girl).

    I still haven’t got my poor head around the girl giving birth to eggs, but you are spot on with the girl growing mature, more sexual, and losing innocent as she falls in the lake. I wonder what it really means though…for now, I’m trying to avoid the path of Jesus/etc., but an interpretation more open than just Christian theology.

    And haha…thanks for the research and the effort of watching the film again…although I’m guessing you did that for the joy of it!

  12. darkincubo Says:

    “Oshii flatly admits that he doesn’t know what Angel’s Egg is about.”

    “Angel’s Egg, the director’s most mystifying work, actually seems to be similar to his artistic experiment Mezame No Hakobune in the regard that it doesn’t have a singular meaning or interpretation. Angel’s Egg is literally art for the sake of art. It aspires to be nothing more than it is. The natural instincts of viewers virtually demand an effort to make sense of the film, but the film itself is content to merely present an atmospheric dreamscape peppered with iconography commonplace in the subconsciousness of much of the world.”

    Reference:
    http://www.animenation.net/blog/2008/08/12/ask-john-are-mamoru-oshiis-films-pretentious/

  13. gaguri Says:

    (quoting myself)-> “Maybe the film should be approaached just as an enigmatic visual masterpiece, with no attempt at trying to spell what it actually means.”

    I don’t disagree but it’s interesting anyway to explore what possible connections his powerfully bizarre imagery (like fish shadows) could have to such and such things. Or what it means to each viewer (in my case, me) anyway.

  14. Seichiro Says:

    And what is about the skeleton of an angel?
    I mean, when the girl shows the ‘bird’ to the man…

    And the man said something like: I knew…

    Its like the man realized that there is truth in the religion, and after that he brakes the egg!!! Maybe there is more than concern… Maybe he did it on purpose.

    Sorry for bad english

  15. Seichiro Says:

    Oh yes… And great site, great post!

  16. gaguri Says:

    Thanks 😀

    As for your question, yes that’s one of the most puzzling moment in the movie for me too.

    When the girl shows the skeleton to the man, he obviously came to some kind of enlightenment. He found the truth. I don’t know what that is though exactly, although if I had to guess, it has something to do with blind faith. For example, the fact that the god that rules our universe isn’t like the one told in bible.

    And then he breaks the egg, breaks her faith and hope. That there was nothing inside the egg, it was just her imagination.

    This is just a speculation of course.

  17. nattao Says:

    fishi is the symbol of christianity


  18. Watched the movie a while ago, and i find it really enigmatic, I’m glad that there are a lot of people who were also astonished by the artistry, symbolism, and animation of the film…it’s really good, a mind blowing one, many tried to discuss their interpretations on different sites I’ve visited in connection with the movie and they were really trying to dig out every single fact and detail they could see. I’m really glad I’ve watched it. Impressive.


  19. […] things that nobody knows what is going on and people have their own interpretations. I found this site that tries to deconstruct the movie that may help you and even me, after watching […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s