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Cyberpunk Review » Avalon Page 2: Spoiler Discussion
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Comments

April 17, 2006

kodos said:

I noticed that Ash used Murphy’s gun after she shot him. The scene showed her reloading his gun and taking it inside. Do you think there was any significance to that?

April 18, 2006

SFAM said:

Hi Kodos, sorry I didn’t notice that. I’ll look for it next time I watch this. Perhaps others have some thoughts on it.

April 25, 2006

Neuromancer said:

I think it is like a weapons upgrade.

Like i said before i think everything we see in the film is part of the game. Each level of reality is another level in the game. Including Ash herself. We (or Oshii for that matter) get to play the game through Ash.
Ash receives a new gun from Bishop when she enters the next level of the game with the specific objective to shoot Murphy.
Perhaps the final “boss” and the completion of the game can only be achieved by using Murphy’s gun. We don’t know whether or not Ash shoots the ghost and completes the game. All we see is “Welcome to Avalon”. This would indicate either the completion (you won! want to play again?) or a reset (you died! want to play again?) - Welcome to Avalon.

Of course it is also possible we get to see the world through the eyes of Ash herself: the disconnected feeling about the real world, not fitting in, a sense of not belonging.
With a lot of people nowadays their gameworld increasingly becomes the real world (think WoW-addicts) making the players body an empty shell while their ghost lives on in the gameworld. Maybe entering Class Real is another level where we get to make the choice of permanently leaving the real physical world as our soul/ghost gets uploaded into the gameworld. The ghost Ash shoots might be the disconnection of her own ghost from her body allowing herself to be uploaded into the game-system itself. Welcome to Avalon.

Kind of a scary thought because this just might become possible in the future. Scary because I think a lot of people actually will prefer a game world over reality.

Did I already mention this is my favourite movie?

Neuromancer

July 2, 2006

mattness said:

To SFAM: Man, I love you (for top 50 topic and for that site).

But I hate you for onething. When you mentioned this movie on forum, you wrote that Avalon was filmed in Hungary.

I’m from Poland and Avalon was filmed in my country. I really like Hungary, but that is very offensive to me. TIA

SFAM said:

Hi Mattness, I’m truly sorry that you hate me for that. The Hungary vs Poland was purely an oversight on my part when I originally wrote the review (I always knew it was Poland) - although I corrected that many many months ago. Where do you still see me referencing Hungary?

ETM said:

mattness - chill out, man. I’m from Montenegro, but since people only know of Bosnia and Kosovo, they never get it right. If I “hated” everyone who made that mistake, I wouldn’t have that many friends right now. SFAM is one of the coolest blokes I know, and he’s trying really hard to get things right, but you’re forgetting one thing - he’s doing all of this by himself, with just a little help from his friends. Cut him some slack.

July 6, 2006

mattness said:

SFAM - I’m sorry - it wasn’t for real (I should place some smiley, or something).

I really admire your dedication to give cyberpunk fans complete list of cyberpunk movies.
Hail to SFAM! :)

I see you found post I mentioned: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/vine/showpost.php?p=6507426&postcount=247 without my help.

OK. Let’s back to topic:
If somebody is interested, I know some trivia about this movie.
- Set was placed in Wroclaw (Poland regain it after WWII). Before that it was german city, called Breslau. Many buildings you saw in the movie are built pre-war.
- Oshii insisted to hire polish actors. For him, polish language sounded very exotic. That’s why it’s in polish, not english or japanese.
- About Ms Foremniak. As other poles mentioned, she’s bad actress, star of local soap operas. But I found interesting interview with her about Avalon.
She said something like this (sorry for my poor English):
“Director, Mr Oshii before any scene came to me and told me, how he see this particular scene. But I never understand, what he has in mind”.
So, if any of you wanted to speak with Foremniak about cyberpunk - forget it - she still don’t get it, in what kind of movie she starred :) .

July 7, 2006

SFAM said:

Hi Mattness, the pre-war comment really adds a lot - you definitely get that feeling watching it.

BTW, the R1 release of Avalon has a pretty detailed interview with Oshii where he discusses that very point (exotic language). He also mentioned he treated the actors like anime characters, meaning he told them virtually NOTHING about what his thoughts where - he just told them where he wanted them to be and what he wanted them to do. I can only imagine how frustrating that must have been for the actors. So it doesn’t surprise me at all that Foremniak had no idea what Oshii wanted.

September 6, 2006

incte333 said:

if class real is supposed to be reality, why does Murphy “vanish” after he dies??? shouln’t his body remain.

SFAM said:

Hi incte333, Class Real is still in a virtual world. It is “real reality” in the sense that Murphy has rejected the real world as “real.” Even though Class Real is virtual, it is in Murphy’s mind where humanity actually belongs.

October 8, 2006

wcl884 said:

I had thought that Ash actually returns to her barren reality. The one of the heads of the 2 cupids is broken in the her real world. It may be a foreshadowing since at the end she takes the gun into the auditorium and we see the ghost there with 2 cupids (with 2 heads).

Perhaps she shoots the ghost (and the bullet breaks one of the cupid’s head) and she returns to her reality. Perhaps she becomes the administrator (like the old lady managing the entrance). Hence, her statement “my reality is what I make of it” would then hold true - since she’s now administrating Avalon. Either she becomes the administrator or she becomes the Game Master - whom she had extensive conversations with in the movie.

By the way - what happened to her dog?

December 11, 2006

vastgene said:

Avalon: Or the Story of Ashe, the Unreturned

We see Ashe emerge from the game terminal crypts, and then redeem her points as cash. During this sequence, she looks up and sees the broken-headed cherub statue.

Later, she confronts the ‘ghost’ girl, and when Ashe fires her pistol, the bullet shatters one head of the (intact) cherub statue which is behind the ghost.

‘Welcome to Avalon’ is the beginning of the VR loop for Ashe; she relives her terminal adventure repeatedly, or at least as often, as she is afforded a visit by the only ‘real person’, Bishopa, who is her therapist, and who is paid to do this work by the Avalon Foundation.

The ‘clinic of the unreturned’ was shown only within the game; in reality, it is a high-tech ward, where Ashe herself resides, along with all of the other ‘unreturned’. In this ward, we would see all of the tech gear which is needed to keep life in the unreturned. It is consistent that within the game, the theme of the game is maintained. At no time do we, the viewers, see the actual ‘real’ world, where the actual clinic of the unreturned exists as a modern hospital.

Ashe does not recognize the shattered cherub statue, as she stands waiting for her cash at the terminal counter. But it was she herself who fired the shot which shattered the head of the cherub. The fact of her oblivion to this significant object (which like Humpty, and Ashe herself, could not be reassembled) goes to show her oblivion to the endless loop of her VR lifestyle, as well. Mercifully, she has amnesia, which allows each replay of her loop to be as vivid as the first.

Bishopa is a paid therapist. He enters VR to interact with the various unreturned, to keep their consciousness from going stale. Perhaps the massively parallel supercomputer which runs AVALON does not have the raw processing power to run each and every unreturned’s loop at the same time; perhaps each loop plays, only when Bishopa does his scheduled immersion for theraputic purposes.

The AVALON Foundation is indeed, quite deliberately serving the ends of the most advanced and vital science, as several readers have commented. It is our choice to live, or to die. But AVALON offers a new alternative; to live forever as consiousness in a ‘game’, whose drama and stakes are truely immediate and engulfing. We can only hope that such brilliant minds emerge in our future, to expand the life/death (1/0) binary choice into a third, and compassionate one.

BTW, the dog represents the same sort of ‘glitch’, as does the black cat in The matrix… but Ashe, although provided with this clue, does not (cannot?) have the sort of internal conversation, which would result in her awareness of her dilemma (choice?) to be permenantly ‘in the game’. Bishopa uses this information diagnostically, and scripts the action accordingly.

Great website, I resonate with your review ratings…

==Gene Poole==

December 22, 2006

Neuromancer said:

Touchdown!
Great post there vastgene.
It seems this movie has gained another disciple!

January 16, 2007

SFAM said:

Hi Gene, absolutely terrific post! Sorry I didn’t comment on it earlier. I love everything but the Dog/Cat analogy. I’m not seeing that. Oshii uses the dog in every movie of his, and it seems to always have the same meaning - the here and now - real reality if you will. This is Oshii’s way of saying Class Real “is” the only reality that matters.

Anonymous said:

SFAM’s comments are all very interesting, but I’m not sure there is all that much to this type of movie. Given that Ash would clearly believe that Avalon is just virtual, any attempt to “accept” that as some sort of reality must obviously fail. Contrary to the movie’s reversal of our life’s experiences, Avalon is set up as superficially more interesting and enjoyable than reality. The same approach in our daily lives can be found in the lives of people who involve themselves with drugs. Those of us who see them see nothing of redeeming quality in pursuing altered reality especially with such detremental side effects.
The point should be simply that life is by far the most interesting and exciting choice. For most of us, including the vast majority of folks who pass through life daily without spending much time on these issues, if given a choice reality is far more exciting. Actually, it is the only choice. By definition virtual is not real and thus is entirely a waste of time. Despite the premise that such a reality could be “structured” as an improvement over real life, few actually would accept that premise. The next question follows, what happens after you die? In virtual life, nothing because you don’t exist. Hardly exciting. Reality, however, includes religious views that relate life’s experiences to an after life. And, before this view is characterized as simplistic or naive, one should ask himself as to his actual understanding of the “real” world. Go into any bookstore of reasonable size and head for the Physics section. Take a quick look at books that discuss string theory and paralel universe. That is reality and far more interesting than any game, no matter what the technology employed.
I don’t believe anyone who really thinks about life can settle for the limits of some human trying to construct a world, when the real one has rules and boundaries that we have not yet even contemplated. Sorry, but I’ll take reality, because I believe it is far more fantastic than all the science fiction dreamed by any person.
Just my view.

SFAM said:

Hi Anonymous (name please?), Nice post, although of course I would disagree. In Avalon, we are not presented with a world like ours is today, we are presented with a dystopia. The surroundings that Ash lives in are less than savory. On top of this, the one person she cares about is now somewhere else. Over the course of the movie, Ash’s mindset shifts. This is shown by the removal of the dog from reality to Class Real.

Whether or not you personally would take reality over this game system (I’d guess the vast majority of us would), this doesn’t really help us in determining if there is “all that much to this type of movie.” If we place ourselves in Ash’s shoes, perhaps our choice might be different.

February 12, 2007

Mad Martha said:

First , I’d like to thank you SFAM for highlighting this movie for me.

I too am a fan of movies that make you think- the more the better IMHO :)

I “got hold” of this movie this weekend and watched it and loved it! (I’m going to watch it again after I finish this post…)

It’s got Oshii stamped all over it - and that’s a good thing from my point of view.

OK , diving right into the whole “what did you think of the ending ?” discussion….

The theory posted by vastgene sounds the most plausible to me.

I take on board all his points and add these few of my own :

Ash , hardly eats (near the start you see her eat some nibbles but that’s it) , this is highlighted throughout the whole film (and raises an interesting point with Bishop I’ll mention later) , the fact it’s pointed out so many times , especially in a film of this depth and nature , I feel there *has* to be a significance to it.

Vastgene’s theory of Ash already being “lost” fits this lack of eating - as she (a) would really be fed in the “real world” by drip and (b) if stuck in a perpetual looped simulation , could literally “forget” that eating was necessary (E.g. Matrix : Practice room : Morpheus to Neo “Is that air you think you’re breathing ?”).

Ash’s “reality” is as monochrome as the game itself , to me suggesting that it is itself another simulation. Also reinforced by the “neutral characters” she sees in that reality seeming predefined stationary “2D” backdrops (e.g. the people on the tram , the man in the window , the people at the station) , the only people that seem “real” are others that are in some way connected to the game itself (the players and the woman “admin”).

Ash’s lack of E-mails - a metaphor for her disconnection to “the outside world” , maybe ?

The disappearing dog : Big one this , when Ash first returns to the room in that scene she looks down and smiles as if looking at the dog directly (even waves the meat at the dog) , we the viewer hear the scampering paws on the floor , confirming that the dog is indeed there. Then , POOF , it’s gone , with no way it could have got out of the room (the door was most certainly closed) - our own (meaning the viewers) perception of reality tells us this simply isn’t possible - something is wrong with this world..

Add to that , when Ash goes outside looking for the dog we hear the sound effect of the Helicopters as they sound in the game.
All in all this leaves me the impression that the “reality” Ash is in at that time is beginning fall apart (i.e. Ash is beginning to “crash”) , and hence cannot be “real”.

At this point Bishop appears at her door for no apparent reason , could it be that somewhere off in the “real world” an alarm started to sound showing she need immediate attention , and Bishop “dropped in” to render assistance ?
(He does say something to the effect of “You need me…” , perhaps he meant it differently to the way Ash took it ?)

Now I come back to the food thing. Bishop takes a look at the food on her kitchen table and says “Your dog eats very well”.
It is said as a clear statement , implying that not for one second did he think Ash was ever going to eat the food herself. Then comes another reference to the fact Ash (and Avalon gamers in general) doesn’t eat.
As a “Bishop” , yes , he’s an expert at “gathering data” but his comments are said a definite statements - as if he already knows the answer - again a sign of “outside knowledge” beyond Ash’s experience.

Next , Does Ash shoot the girl ?
To me , yes she does , for these reasons :
First , the conversation with Murphy , where she denies the validity of “Class Real” by accusing Murphy of “deserting them” in favour of what she sees as a false reality. With that standpoint I find it hard to believe that she would choose to stay there herself.

Second , from the brief look we see of Ash in Class Real , it scares her. It’s so alien to her own reality that she cannot “deal” with such a world. Again this reinforces the view of Ash retreating away from “reality” and into herself.

Third , The two cherubs. It’s like the cherubs at the beginning are making a prediction or a prophecy of things to come. By shooting the ghost , Ash complete’s that prophecy. Making the whole simulated loop complete - literally making a “self fulfilling prophecy”. The simulation resets back to the beginning and Ash’s cycle in the game begins all over again - truly she is “lost” in Avalon (and perhaps this is in fact the TRUE nature of Avalon , that there is NO escape!).

One final thing I would like to mention , is that I believe that the initial point where Ash becomes “Lost” is during the flash backs to that fateful Wizard mission. The FX for the scene do not match the one other time we see a “reset” invoked - which seemed pretty instant , as Ash uses it to escape a missile attack.
In the flash back we see Ash “loosing it” and a gradual build up to a point where she goes “poof” in a cloud of green smoke with Murphy looking most distressed at seeing this. Also , Murphy is still “in game” to see this happen , again suggesting that what just happened was NOT a reset but something else entirely.

Anyways , if you read all of this , my mental wanderings , thanks :)

Hope I added something worth thinking about to this most cerebral of films.

[MM]

SFAM said:

Hi Mad Martha, nice comments! I’m going to have to watch this again with the VR loop in mind. Offhand though, I still like my explanation better as philosophically, it seems to flow more with the ideas Oshii advocates in Innocence, but perhaps I’ll change after watching this for a fourth time. I will definitely pay closer attention to the food thing. Also problematic though is the dog in that Oshii always seems to use this symbol for the here and now “real” reality. If Ash is in virtual land at the beginning, then what do you see the dog itself symbolizing?

BTW, given your interpretation, how would you differ with my thoughts on the ending (meaning, why did Murphy take out the bullets, etc.)? Also, would you say that Ash is in Class Real from the beginning?

February 13, 2007

Mad Martha said:

First , I’ll go to your Murphy question as I *do* have an idea on that one….

I’m making guesses here (as we all are , as we are all intended to be , I doubt even Oshii has a definitive answer for this story , I’m sure he just wanted to pose questions for debate…)

From my previous reasoning’s I’ve set that Ash is wholly surrounded in a VR existence, and implied that Murphy actually did NOT get lost but in fact Ash DID.

Taking Vastgene’s premise that Ash is really in some sort of high tech “clinic” (for want of a better word) and that Bishop is some sort of Therapist who ultimately wants to “help” Ash.

Bishop could have set up Ash to enter “Class Real” in an attempt to pull Ash further back to a point of being able to accept reality as opposed to her slipping further into Neurosis (as she was in danger of doing just before Bishop turned up).

In doing so , in an attempt to reach Ash , it makes sense that he would chose a symbol/person Ash could identify with , namely Murphy. (in this case either he could have bought the real Murphy into the VR scenario or generated a simulation of Murphy)

In the Class Real scenario , it can be argued that Bishop is presenting Ash an *example* of an alternative reality to her own personal “reality” in that she is *shown* that she could have a “real” existence with Murphy (and the rest of the world) but it entails her turning her back on her own self imposed “prison”.

For such therapy to work it would involve Ash willing making the choice HERSELF , and not having it forced upon her.

Thus , Murphy could not have had a loaded gun - if he had shot , it would have removed Ash’s choice and made the whole exercise pointless.

Murphy , in this scenario I’ve depicted would still remain true to your thoughts that he wanted to “save” Ash - but gives him different reasons for doing so….

I do not think Ash was initially in Class Real - but instead locked into a cycle of her own delusion , centering around the game (and caused by the game).
I think “Class Real” is a “construct” , an effort by those trying to help Ash to provide a stepping stone to try and break out of her own cyclic delusion. Which Ash (I think) rejects and returns back into her Avalon existence (again and again , thus the final “Welcome to Avalon” screen).

Now , “the Dog issue”.
The DOGS definitely mean something , and yes I do mean that plural. The only reaction Ash got to her presence when in her “real world” scenario was from the dogs - her own pet and the one on the platform.
What that could mean I do not know….

“Also problematic though is the dog in that Oshii always seems to use this symbol for the here and now “real” reality.” - Perhaps Oshii is deliberatly playing on that very line of thinking.

Initially he puts the dog into Ash’s reality to “fool” us into thinking it’s real - then at the right point blatantly removes the dog (kinda like pulling the rug out from under your feet) to completely throw you off balance.

From that point he removes the viewers “safe ground” and forces us to question *everything* - and THAT I think was his intention here…..

He then introduces the dog back into Class Real - either you could see that as Bishop trying to reach Ash with another symbol she identifies with and/or you could read that as Oshii saying to the viewer : “Reality is where you want it to be , and is NOT a fixed predetermined place.”

Does that go some way to answer your questions ?

[MM]

SFAM said:

Hi MM, I certainly see where you’re going with this, although my reaction is that this is perhaps a bit to convoluted for Oshii. But again, I REALLY need to see Avalon again, as I haven’t seen it in quite some time, and the last few times I was watching more to confirm/understand my interpretation above, so I don’t really consider that an open mind viewing.

BTW, if you have the DVD, I believe there’s an interview with Oshii on it, where he discusses the dog. He’s spoken on this in a number of interviews though, including the time of Innocence, so I’m guessing the dog still means the “hear and now.” However, again, perhaps the dog may still mean this, even with a VR in a VR type interpretation. The other issue with that view though is the beginning where Ash spends essentially wandering, and visiting Murphy’s bedside. But again, your interpretation is certainly coherent, and you’ve definitely convinced me I need to see this movie again to look at it from the POV you’re advocating.

BTW, how would you square your interpretation with Oshii’s overall philosophy? Meaning what do you think he’s really saying about the nature of humanity here? I was on a vector seeing both Avalon and Innocence as exploring the idea that our bodies are becoming obselete - that existence in the hear and now is no longer necessary for us to be “alive.”

And I definitely agree that Oshii definitely likes to leave us with thought pieces versus clear answers.

Mad Martha said:

“….although my reaction is that this is perhaps a bit to convoluted for Oshii.” - You say that after the whole 2501/Puppetmaster plot ? Or after the Innocence Reality Trap plot line ?
I think Oshii likes convoluted thinking , this really showed in Innocence with the Reality within a Reality Trap thing that was attempted on Batou…(I forget the proper name Batou called it)

If my line of thinking here was applied to Oshii’s own habit of making comments about “humanity” I would go back to my closing lines in my previous reply.

I think, here, Oshii is suggesting that sometime “soon” humans will have a much greater choice in how they define their reality.
With the suggestion that many would be more “comfortable” within their own “false/constructed” realities than having to face the real world distopia we are currently heading towards.

I think , in general , he’s asking each of us : “Is this the way you want things to go ?”

……..And leaving us to make our own minds up.

SFAM said:

Hi MM, I get the impression that Oshii is asking us this question - he’s pretty clear on the point that Co-evolution of man and his tools will (continue to) dramatically increase. Our options will be vastly different in the future - moreso, our society will have changed. But to me, it seems clear he’s already made his mind up about how he would answer it - that yeah, our bodies are becoming obsolete. This message comes loud and clear to me in both Avalon and GITS Innocence. Incidentally, this is a different position than he took in the original GITS.

Regarding the convolutedness, I think Shirow needs to take a good bit of the blame for the puppetmaster. :)

But, um, yeah, point taken on the Innocence reality trap plot line. Touche’. That was about as convoluted as it gets!

[ETM] said:

This sooo needs to be preserved in the Forums. :)

Mad Martha said:

OK , first I would like to retract the last two lines of my previous reply.
I was tired and replied quickly without giving it much thought.
On review , I feel I completely over simplified the whole thing and should have stopped while I was ahead a couple of lines earlier…

Moving on…

The whole “body is not needed” concept , while certainly part of the broader view of Oshii’s work , I don’t think is too relevant to this specific film , Avalon.

No-where in the film does it posit the question : “What happens to the digital consciousness if the “real world” body dies ?”

Your broad statement that “The body is becomming obsolete” suggests you believe the consciousness would indeed continue.

While that view may well fit with Innocence , it just doesn’t come into my view of this individual production.

It just isn’t covered….

Or is it ?

In order for Ash to “progress” into the next stage of the game (read: VR existence) she has to kill a “GHOST”.
…and we all know how Oshii defines “Ghost”….

Hmmm , metaphors and symbology afoot methinks :)

A fleeting image with no real explanation of it’s source , only visible while in the presence of a BISHOP , an intangible and elusive enigma that many consider to be a glitch , oh yes , there is most certainly a “Ghost in the Machine”…..and Ash has to kill it !

Now , I stop this reply “half done” , and this is why….

At this stage I was going to reference Solid State Society - which deals with this very issue head on.

BUT , I notice it’s absence from the site reviews and the fact you have not already spoken of it. (since it’s SO relevant to this discussion).

I’m going to take a leap here and guess : You haven’t seen it yet ?

OK , it’s not directly Oshii’s work , but is very relevant to the whole “obsolete body” discussion. (not to mention a great bit of CyberPunk Anime!)

If you have not already seen it , I suggest you get hold of a copy from somewhere and give it a view :)

I think you’ll agree it adds depth to the whole concept.

[MM]

SFAM said:

Hi MM, no, I haven’t seen Solid State Society yet. I have this fault in that I really want to see good movies on my big widescreen TV instead of my computer. I don’t have a DVD of it yet, but will soon…

Regarding the covering of the bodies being obselete question in Avalon, I cannot think of a better way to show this than having a bunch of useless bodies drooling in a sanitarium. Avalon hits home with this message in spades. This, I think, is what the ending is about, as I mention above, and certainly meshes with why I think Ash is in the real world at the beginning.

And um, definitely don’t tell me the ending of SSS. :)

March 21, 2007

Ramiz said:

Uhh…
I’ve read this second page just now and my head is spinning. You people are so deeper into this than me although I spent some hours as well trying to find every little piece of the puzzle with my friend (and with a beer ^^).
And I have to re-watch the movie as well. :)

August 28, 2007

Klaw said:

Since watching this again I’ve noticed 2 small points which I’m not sure conflict with anyone’s viewpoint. I’ve heard a few different interpretations of the film… although the sys-admin one here is one of the better and more consistent.

#1 When Ash first sees Murpny in Class Real, his mouth moves into a slow smile exactly like the ghost does later in the film.

#2 The ghost’s face, not only morphs into a smile much like the Mona Lisa… her face become patchworked, and her hair has distinct “ear” shapes… she seems to have morphed into the dog’s face.

I’ll try to dig up an interpretation I read a few years ago regarding the myth of Pygmalion… apparently the statue filmed where the head is missing/reappears is a very specific one that has significance I believe. I’ll post more if I can find that.

September 20, 2007

Bones said:

October 4, 2007

Clint said:

I prefer a less philosophical interpretation. I see this movie as Oshii’s inverted re-make of The Matrix.

The Wachowski vision was a planet conquered by machines with the ‘normal’ world existing only inside a VR, and a small community of free minds living outside of it. Individuals who sense a problem with their world can be freed and attain super gamer powers (the people of Zion). Those who prefer the illusion can remain as normal boring people in the safety of the simulation.

Avalon turns this inside out with a city of gamers that exists unknowingly inside a VR hidden from the perfectly normal outside world. This virtual community is governed by human ‘admins’ and was created as a solution to the problem of game-addicted individuals in the real world, with the hope of convincing them to prefer reality as Murphy did. Individuals who develop super gamer powers will sense a problem with the world and can attempt to free themselves and return to reality (the unreturned). Those who prefer the illusion can remain as gamers in the safety of the simulation.

October 8, 2007

gennnniiikk said:

Hi

Bye

June 11, 2008

ABC Moniker said:

Awesome analysis and very sharp comments.

Thought I’d like to add this link to this guy who analysed the girl at the end on the stage. He thinks there could be a link to the girl and the dog.

Check out the photos here to see what I mean

http://mitglied.lycos.de/smartianer72/

Of course what the dog means in relation as a motif to the entire movie I have no idea at this point in time.

July 7, 2008

Anonymous said:

The point was made above that Ash never eats anything substantial - and further, that this behaviour is intentionally emphasized throughout the film.

It is of interest to me that a similar emphasis is placed upon Ash’s acquaintance, the thief who was a part of team Wizard with her. He is portrayed as perpetually starving, gorging himself at every opportunity. His gluttony is filmed as an organic, animalistic character trait.

The interpretations you’ve shared here are very interesting, and wonderfully coherent.

Vastgene’s hypothesis rings true to me, I’m just wondering how the thief fits into this picture.

Another point of curiosity to me are the books Ash is studying. To the Bishop, they appear blank. They appear to exclusively revolve around the King Arthur / Avalon theme.

July 17, 2008

Anónimo said:

And what do you people think about “class Real” being a “release valve” of super (class A) players out of the simulated war game?

July 29, 2008

Geeraard said:

Hi,

first of all I just want to say I haven’t read everything, its way to much. so what I’m about to write might already been said above.

If you look at the real world in the beginning, People stand around like statues, something that is not normal in a “Real” world. so my guess is that this first real world is a computer world. with people as background.
For example: in the Tram we see the same people/statues every time she rides it. (probably the programmer of the “future time” didn’t have enough time to create moving/talking people ;-)

when she goes to SA real world, that still isn’t real, because her friend dies and disappears in 1s and 0s

why the girl smirks so mean, don’t ask, I don’t know. but I think “Welcome to avalon” just means welcome to the real real world… Where she gets flushed into the sewers of a robotic ruled world. the bishop lives there on a hovercraft searching for the One… Or something like that ;-) HAHA

that’s my theory, maybe a bit simple, but, it doesn’t always have to be complicated.

August 30, 2008

newtron said:

Great comments everyone.

I just want to offer some other food for thought. Please note that I do not necessarily believe what I wrote below. Nevertheless, I find the ideas interesting.

I was curious if anyone has considered the various implications of the class real objectives of killing an “unreturned”. Technically, I believe Ash is considered an unreturned while she is in class real. It is possible (building upon vastgene’s original post) that Ash could kill herself and complete the class real objective. This might “free” her of this perpetual VR loop. Plus, why is Murphey the only unreal she encounters in class real? She obviously has feelings for him. The probability of just bumping into each other would be extremely small; unless it was predetermined by the game. Maybe, Bishop hopes that killing him would send her over the edge and she would kill herself.

I also find it interesting that class real had NO time limit. Was this class real rule encouraging her to stay as long as she liked?

If this is not a VR loop, I seriously doubt that Ash wanted to stay in class real. If she wanted to stay, why would she kill Murphey at all? It would be a waste. They could just live happily together in class real. For her to kill him and then stay makes no sense at all to me.

All the best,

newtron

September 5, 2008

Lotharsson said:

in the Tram we see the same people/statues every time she rides it

And in that portion of the movie all of the people outside the game building are standing at right angles - they all face one of four directions. This seemed to me like a hint that either that “real” world was an incredibly constrained society by convention, or that those characters weren’t real people. The dog on the platform was a conspicuous exception.

June 20, 2009

Dave said:

Welcome to Avalon…..the end words welcome the viewers to the loop-cycle of interpretation. Since there is no definite answer as to what is “really real” for Ash, there is no real answer for us, as the evidence is ambiguous in nature (very much like the virtual realities themselves). Thus, any thoughts that come post-screening the film are thoughts that send us chasing after our own tails (the dog analogy). Ash is stuck in a loop of questions without answer, as are the viewers (aside from that which we make for ourselves). It is all a game, Oshii the game master, the film itself the game, Ash our avatar, and we the viewers are the player. In this case the only way to win is to not play.

June 25, 2009

Stormtrooper of Death said:

Dave, your phrase ‘The only way to win is not to play’, reminds me of WarGames, where the computer program says at then end, after playing several simulations of global thermonuclear war:

the only way to win this game, is not to play. The he asks: Shall we play a game of chess.

I did not yet see this movie Avalon. Seems hard to torrent / download. and even harder to get hold on in our little country. As having no visa or something, importing this movie from the usa, is nearly imposibble, so downloading is way the only option for us, in this small european country.

anyhow, a good review, and seems to me a very nice movie to watch. Has anybody also watched, the 13th floor ?

August 26, 2009

NapalmBob said:

Discussing the final scenes: I think that Class Real is actually the real world. Ash has been stuck in the virtual world of the game. The ghost symbolises Ash’s commitment to the virtual world. It symbolises all the reasons that she is there and symbolises Ash’s virtual image. By destroying the ghost she can finally leave the virtual world.

But I don’t think she understands this herself. Its like part of her wants to be free of the virtual world and part of her is content to keep playing the game (where the ghost is just another objective.)

Once in the real world Ash sets out to destroy her only link to the virtual world. Murphy. This may explain why he vanishes in the digital way he does. He is the only thing there that represents the virtual world, and destroying him is symbolic of her determination to stay in the real world. But again, its almost like part of her knows this truth and another part is content to “keep playing the game”. Its like her subconcius is guiding her onto the right path but her conscious can’t see past the reality of the game world.

I’m still thinking about it.

@Stormtrooper: I found it on warez-bb.org, but I had to hunt down some English subtitles. And its in pretty crappy quality.
And 13th Floor is also awesome :D

September 6, 2009

Weils said:

I think that debating whether the sepia-toned world that Ash lives and the world in Class Real is real is up to the viewer. However, this is a matter of perspective. For me, I believe both worlds are not real since Murphy disappears in the same way in Class Real when he dies like any player does in the Avalon game, while the sepia-toned world has questionable elements that make me believe it’s still within the game itself.

In the game, players often talk about killing the ghost as a way of entering Class Real. However, after Ash kills Murphy, she does not win the game and return to the “real” world where she lives. Instead, shaken by Murphy’s last words, Ash enters the concert hall and is about to shoot the ghost. Perhaps, Ash does not accept Class Real “as the world where she belongs” like Murphy said, and she instead has another thought: what if I don’t think I belong in this world and is not the one for me?

In the sepia-toned world, most inhabitants accept their world as real. Murphy does not accept this, and believes that Class Real is the real world, where he belongs. He assumes the same for Ash too. However, he is partly wrong in that aspect. He does impart this wisdom to Ash, but I believe she thinks neither Class Real nor the sepia-toned world is the world for her.

To that end, I think Ash most likely shoots the ghost. Like its function, shooting the ghost meant that the player progress from the game to Class Real, a previously inaccessible area. What if Ash shoots the ghost IN Class Real? Will she be brought to a new plane of existence, a kind of ascendance to the next level? Just like Murphy has found his place in the world where he belongs, Ash will now keep going to find the world where she belongs.

December 16, 2009

TheNathanator said:

A few notes from rewatching the film, inspired by the above comments:

Ash IS shown eating in her room once, albeit very little. I don’t blame her for not eating the cafeteria food. Anyone eating with Stunner would lose their appetite! Real wholesome food seems to be the only thing shown with a bit of natural color. (BTW, apples are associated with mythological avalon, and do appear in the movie.)

The statue of the two cherubs is not the only statue we see missing its head. About 21 min in there is a very brief shot of a saint carrying a cross, missing its head. At 23min there is another very brief shot of an angel with part of its face collapsed. When Ash logs into Ruins C-66 she looks up at an arch, and we see a relief with two soldiers missing their heads. So, literally the head (the mind) is being separated (destroyed) from the body. Are the religious statues with missing heads to heaven, what the brain-dead “unreturneds” in the ward are to the game? And, to pursue this line, is Special A, “Class Real,” a taste of heaven (ie mythic Avalon) for the gamer? The bishop leads Ash to this heaven, she is given unlimited time (eternity?), and the choice to stay or come back. Perhaps only one hero can be there at a time, which is why she’s sent to kill Murphy? (That last bit is tenuous…) But, by killing Murphy is she effectively reuniting his brain with his body, restoring the natural order? Just like the Cherub statue is restored?

Note the GM’s collar, and compare that to Bishop’s similar collar, which he wears outside of the game, and which he wears when he acts as GM for the Class Real level. GM as religious mentor?

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to interpret the appearance of the “ghost” in the hospital ward, in the scene with Stunner’s voice-over (in which he’s talking about appearances of the ghost) when Ash first visits the hospital. Done for the viewer’s sake (because we’re looking for it to happen at that moment)? Or is it literal?

There is an emphasis on cyclicality at the beginning of the film, with certain events repeating: Ash replaying the same level, going home on the same tram (with the same people in the same positions), and the detail goes all the way down to what sounds like a can being kicked as Ash exits the game-building. I think this is meant to represent the mundane side of the gameplay - it is her job after all.

The dog is still a question. Is it a form of extortion? A way of making the Class real objective (more) personal? (unlikely…)

Finally, an interesting bit I’ve snagged from the wikipedia article on Avalon, a quote from Geoffrey de Monmouth (Note the 9 sisters, and the AI like land doing things of its “own accord”): “The island of apples which men call “The Fortunate Isle” gets its name from the fact that it produces all things of itself; the fields there have no need of the ploughs of the farmers and all cultivation is lacking except what nature provides. Of its own accord it produces grain and grapes, and apple trees grow in its woods from the close-clipped grass. The ground of its own accord produces everything instead of merely grass, and people live there a hundred years or more. There nine sisters rule by a pleasing set of laws those who come to them from our country.”

That is all. Great blog!

January 3, 2010

kirin said:

I just wanted to stop in to say that I think Weils is seriously onto something here, they may have actually hit the nail on the head.

Especially when we think about the “snakes and ladders” type of effect of the whole concept of “killing” and “ghosts”. Killing someone can send their soul a “level” up in effect, whereas a ghost is usually considered a reflection of a soul belonging that level up, stuck one level lower than it belongs.

In this way a strong argument could be formed towards using a ghost as leverage towards accessing the next level up regardless of where it appears - which then leads to my personal theory as to the intended message of the movie, which I guess is a kind of variation or extrapolation on what Weils already said (and very much in league with the opinion of the OP as well):

Not only is what’s inside and outside perceptually relative, but even their “direction” is relative as well. Oshii is likely suggesting that in the years coming, technology will bear profound philosophical ramifications with it in that it is equally plausible that we could be existing in a kind of virtual reality that is “controlled” from a level higher, as it is that we could ourselves create a virtual reality so convincing, “inside” of our reality, that people could get totally lost in that reality, never to come out again so long as we kept their host body in this reality alive (very much like in Avalon).

Furthermore, there is not necessarily any end to this in either direction, there is prospectively an infinite degree of realities in either direction, so long as we have the technology to create it (inwards) or realize it (outwards).

Many people tend to think so differently about the two, and pay little mind to just how mysterious our outwards borders (or lack thereof) really are. But just stop to think about it for a moment - does the physical reality beyond our planet really extend infinitely in all directions?

Of course not! It’s impossible! So to some degree we must be living in a virtual reality ourselves, and whatever eventual border there is on our reality marks the border from our reality to the next one a level higher. And so on, and so forth.

I have spent years thinking about the deepest meaning of this subtly evocative film, and this is the furthest I can go with it.

I am sure that Oshii is sure we are closing in on the period of time when technology will allow us to become fully aware of all this, and the profound implications that come with it, and so am I.

It’s been alluded to in many mythologies over and over again - there’s even a subtle reference to one of the mythologies in one of the track names from the OST - Tir na mBan, which refers to a part of the Celtic Otherworld. Why would Kawai refer to this mythology if not being fully aware of the common implications between it and Avalonian mythology, that of another world beyond our own?

The reason Avalon is probably my favourite movie of all time, is because its message really does hold a practical message for our own world - we just won’t be finding out what that is until the time is right. I’m sure it’s coming up sooner than most would believe.

January 7, 2010

Rose said:

I wonder if there is any significance in the fact that Ash has to remove all but her underwear in order to play the game? It seems that she goes into the Virtual Reality world - assuming the theory that the two are seperate- as a seperate body (note the silver streak in her hair in the game). Therefore it seems insignificant that she needs to remove her real world clothing in order to play the game. Could this have significance in highlighting Ash’s gender in such a masculine environment or is it merely a voyeuristic detail on the part of the director? It seems that Oshii meticulously composes his shots and mise-en-scene so almost feels blasphemous not to assign it some significance.
Thoughts?

February 1, 2010

Sal said:

It’s so good to read theories and thoughts about this film Avalon.

I wonder about the implications of the difference between the heavy fighting game world that Ash is engaged in compared to the benign game world of Class Real. Does this represent the struggles and conflict of mind compared to the peace of a more enlightened mind? Is Ash growing up?

I ponder on the significance of the empty theatre and stage at the end of the film. William Shakespeare’s “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.” comes to mind. The theatre and stage were full of people but after Ash shoots Murphy and enters the building, the show is over and no-one is there. It’s just Ash and the ghost (whose face gets progressively evil looking). Does the emptiness allude to our individual aloneness and/or the potential result of the workings of our ego?

May 13, 2010

Valentine said:

I must say, this is all incredibly thought provoking stuff - the movie, this article, the comments and responses… Which I’ll admit I haven’t read all of - this is a comment in response to Mad Martha’s first comment, which really started to bake my noodle.

Especially the part about food. It took me some getting used to to understand Oshii’s use of really long, drawn out shots/sequences (Ghost in the Shell gradually became my favorite cyberpunk movie over time), and now that I’ve seen this after seeing GitS several times, I see how these slow parts that lack dialogue or action really give the viewer a chance to breathe in the atmosphere and contemplate what’s going on (and why). That said, I thought the scene where Stunner was pigging out at the diner was particularly lengthy, to the point where I was bothered and uncomfortable with how long it took and how much he ate.
Having read your analysis on what the use of food meant, I have to bring to question what that breakfast sequence in particular meant. To me it seems almost as though the amount of eating between Ash, Stunner, and the dog and how they compare to each other, in a sense represent a certain grasp and viewpoint on reality that the individual characters differ with. For example, Stunner will gladly indulge himself in his meal (putting aside conversation or table manners) in the same sense that in The Matrix, Cypher will gladly indulge himself in steak and becoming an actor in a fake world instead of what the contrary party (Morpheus’ crew members) consider to be important, the real world. My point is, Stunner seems to me like he doesn’t really care what the real world is or is not, he just wants to indulge himself and be content with that.

Contrarily, Ash is very far from being content (as stated by SFAM, she has valid reason to take the risk that she did to find out what Avalon really is, which I imagine in such a situation would make ‘the real world’ seem especially dull and pointless), and this is represented by her lack of eating. It’s like she doesn’t want to eat that which she doesn’t feel is truly real [maybe on an unconscious level that she can’t figure out herself, similar to the connection with the broken cherub head]. This is where the dog comes in. The dog seems to be her grasp on reality - she is so happy to feed it and feed it well, and then the dog/her sense of reality begins to slip away and disappear.
At this point I thought the helicopter sound was very interesting. That sequence is done almost as if it’s a hallucination, a withdrawal symptom from [at the time] abstaining from indulging in a reality that she knows and accepts is only virtual. When she hears it, she realizes that a fake reality is more important to her (and I guess she manages to accept and overcome this at the end of the movie?), she looks incredibly bleak and questions which reality is actually real, and they start to blur. In that sense, the dog disappearing may be seen as her clarity on what reality means is also disappearing. Furthermore, since the dog was fake, her concept of reality was also fake, constructed only by her own distorted sense of reality. Regardless of whether or not the helicopter sound was real or a hallucination, it all became apparently blurred and irrelevant (”does it really matter?”). On that note, a ‘real world’ helicopter, like the color tone of the film, is the same as that of the virtual reality - it becomes apparent that there’s no *true* way of knowing what is and what is not reality (absolute Matrix scenario).

My comments on the ending of the movie:
In the scenario that everything is a VR loop as VastGene suggested, it seems to me like Murphy somehow became very aware of the situation - there is no way to access the *true* reality that isn’t digital, so he decided to choose the best reality he has access to; the most lifelike one. This reminds me of the concept brought in the 2nd Matrix, where everything repeats itself and it’s up to Neo to choose whether or not the loop continues. In Avalon, I think it’s possible that Ash came to the realization that everything will repeat itself, and she is at peace with her knowledge that shooting the ghost would cause her memory to be wiped back to square one, just comfortable with living a ‘real’ life in the sense that she’d be able to repeat the process of learning and experiencing all the events prior to that moment, instead of living a boringly comfortable life in the hidden level. She is a warrior after all, and true warriors can’t be content with a life of luxory.

One last thing I have to say… The Bishop very much reminded me of Death in The Seventh Seal (1957). There are similarities in how he keeps his knowledge of ‘the creator(s)’ quite vague and just exists as someone inbetween the world of common people and the world of some higher power, simply there to do his job. I say this because of how the Nine Sisters were never really explored at all.

August 20, 2010

Taz01 said:

i finished watching GITS 1 & 2 and was surprised to see a live version movie called ‘Avalon’. I’m new to ‘cyberpunk’. Loved reading all the comments and interpretations. it’s a shame that most movie goers will never question ‘reality’ versus vr.

August 22, 2010

Ilmarinen said:

So, if we accept the VR loop hypothesis, then we are left with the following:

1. At some point there was a virtual realty game called Avalon played by people in the real world. Some of those players became unreturned by getting stuck in the game.
2. All of the people see in the brown toned VR world that Ash believes to be reality are either AIs that are part of the simulation or are unreturned gamers. (Other than the Game Master, the Bishop, and possibly the Administrator).
3. So Ash and Stunner are unreturned gamers whose real bodies re vegetables in some ward somewhere plugged into a giant virtual reality machine. We can assume that in this world, the game Avalon was declared illegal when people realized the dangers associated with it… but it’s maintained in the ward for the benefit of the unreturned patients. The doctors and administrators of the ward (e.g. the Game Master and the Bishop) can insert themselves into the game in an effort to administer therapy and try to wake the unreturned up.
4. There are hints in the the VR world to try to make the unreturned gradually aware that there is something wrong with their world (e.g. the dog). Just straight up telling them that they are stuck in the game and they’re really just vegetative bodies would probably be too much of a shock. They have to gradually come to realize this themselves through small hints.
5. When someone starts to become more aware or shows potential that they are realizing that they are in an illusion, the Bishop contacts them and gives them a chance to awaken and return to the real world. Class Real is a test to see how they behave in a situation and environment that very closely resembles the actual real world. This is why for example they are told not to shoot neutrals… Obviously that’s fine in the normal battle levels of Avalon where you can shoot anyone, but it’s not such a good in the real world! One of the things they will have to get used to if they awaken…
6. Murphy was also an unreturned in the same ward as Ash. However, the Bishop’s therapy proved successful in his case. He passed the test of Class Real and woke up. That’s why he is an unreturned to Ash. Those who succeed in returning to the real world are are the unreturned of the virtual world where they unreturned are. Murphy (or a simulation of Murphy) is presented to Ash and urges her to remain in Class Real… Only what’s he’s actually urging her to day is wake up and return to the real world.

This leaves me with a few questions:

A. In order for this scenario to be true, then there must be some trigger in Class Real that would wake the person up. Class Real is a test of whether the particular unreturned is ready to return to the real world by putting them in a simulation of the real world… But what’s the trigger to wake them up? Ash appears to be given a choice to either wake up or return to the brown-toned VR world, but I’m not sure how she is supposed act on that choice. Clearly, “killing” Murphy was not the trigger because she remains in Class Real. Are we supposed to believe that shooting the Ghost would take her to the next level - i.e. wake her body up back in the real world? Clearly shooting the Ghost is a trigger to take you to the next level… It took her from the VR game world to Class Real… Will it then enable her to go from Class Real to the real world? In other words, if she shoots the Ghost, is her therapy a success and she wakes up?
B. If I’m right about Point A, then what happens if she does NOT shoot the Ghost? Does she remain in Class Real? Or would the Game Master activate some function that would return her to the brown toned VR world and start the cycle of therapy again?

Basically, what I’m curious about is… If the whole thing is an elaborate therapy for the unreturned, with the Bishop as doctor, then there must be some eventual goal of waking them up and returning them to the real world (as I believe they succeeded in doing with Murphy, who to us is a “returned” and to Ash is an “unreturned”). Class Real is where the patient is given a choice. It’s all about choice. This is where Ash has to decide if she really is ready to come back to the real world or if she will revert back to the VR world. So my main question is this: What are the triggers that would determine whether she awakes in the real world hospital ward or stays vegetative and re-loops in the VR world? Is she shooting the Ghost the trigger to wake up? If she doesn’t shoot the Ghost, does she stay in in Class Real, or restart the game in the brown VR world? I suspect the latter. The patient’s options are: 1. shoot Ghost and wake up, yay therapy worked, nice job Bishop! or 2. don’t shoot Ghost and the the patient’s consciousness is somehow extracted from Class Real and the therapy begins again.

Point 2 raises an issue though. Surely the patient would remember Class Real if this was the case and the therapy would not work the next time. Perhaps this is why it’s made so abundantly clear that THERE IS NO RETURN FROM CLASS REAL. This is stressed throughout. Nobody ever comes back to the VR world from Class Real. This makes me think that either they shoot the Ghost and wake up (successful therapy) or they don’t shoot her and… the therapists give up on them and pull the plug in the real world ward… or they are left to wander endlessly in Class Real until they eventually DO decide to shoot the Ghost (or not and they just chill in Class Real forever). So I don’t think there is an endless loop. If you fail the reality test in Class Real, I don’t think you restart in VR world, I think you might just have to stay there or you finally actually die in the real world. The film goes out of its way to stress that nobody has ever come back to the VR world from Class Real.

December 27, 2010

capnsid said:

Has anyone besides me seen Oshii’s sequel, Avalon F-Assault Girls ? In typical Oshii style, there are plenty of lingering shots, ala Red Spectacles and Stray Dog: Kerberos Panzer Cops. This one was shot on digital, I believe, and runs only 70 min. It’s more anime-like, in the same way the Cop movies were, plus he throws in lots of girls-with guns action, and kaiju monster scenes!

It’s rather silly, but worth checking out, nonetheless.

January 30, 2011

Day life our page spoiler - Page spoiler - Day spoiler said (pingback):

[…] Cyberpunk Review » Avalon Page 2: Spoiler Discussion Avalon Page 2: Spoiler Discussion. By SFAM. The Ending, Interpretations and… Contrary to the movie’s reversal of our life’s experiences, Avalon is set…. Only what’s he’s actually urging her to day is wake up and return to the Cyberpunk Review » Avalon Page 2: Spoiler Discussion […]

November 23, 2011

Agus said:

Vampire Princess MeYou probably is like that Ash in the sense of killing the unreturned?. Unreal, not real, only animation. Kenji Kawai composed. I am for the song that I came to this Avalon thing. Best song, MUCH better than Avalon song, also better than Foreign Affairs of Mike Oldfield.

Agus said:

The thing is that, probably Me You is with Jesus while these Avalon things are NOT. Including probably King Arthur.

Agus said:

Why best song? I SIMPLy judge songs by the tune, when I like the tune it is good. I don’t know the real world judges or international judges. Simply by the tune. When I don’t like the tunes it is bad, example: Crowded House songs. I googled best songs, and they are there, I think probably they have good tunes. The tune. I don’t know the Japanese language, if song is good in tune, for me it is good. Even if all the people think it is good, if the tune is bad, I don’t like it. Example: Angels by Robbie Williams. Very bad includes Macross songs. Very very bad tunes.

Agus said:

About VR, I played FF. Many good music. Another example of good one is “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”. Not really Matrix nor Avalon, but Final Fantasy back in the Nintendo and Super Nintendo era. Certainly not to the taste of Matrix nor Avalon.

December 11, 2011

Mad Martha said:

Hi , long time no see , I still sometimes pop back for a read.

Hmm, I see at some point you re-edited the top of the post to include some of the conversation covered in the comments.

Looks , and reads , much “nicer” (meaning more complete and in depth)

Just one thing I noticed :

“whereas just as clearly, the Matrix trilogy is the sequel to GITS”

AHEM!

I think you need to replace “GITS” with “S.E. Lain” ;)

Yeah , sure Matrix steals visuals from GITS all over the place, but as discussed on the S.E. Lain page here , the basic plot/story is Lain 2 … (or should it be Lain 6 considering the number of predecessors Neo had…)

Cheers ,

[MM]

Mad Martha said:

Oh , and back “on topic” ,
Having watched Avalon a few more times now….

The very end is disturbing me.

The Girl/Ghost gets a *very* long time to stand there and change to her “oh so smug” look.

Ash may well have paused to talk to Murphy (who she had a personal connection with) , but she certainly didn’t pause/hesitate to shoot the Ghost first time around.

So why the pause ???

…and “that look” itself , hmmm , I interpret it as conveying the thought of “got you!” (or something along those lines)

That can be taken 2 ways , either :

(a) “got you! You won’t shoot me because you want to stay in Class Real.”
or
(b) “got you! You’re gonna shoot me and go right back to square 1.”

I can’t help but think of the line from the end of Event Horizon :
“You’re with me now……”
(said by Sam Neil to Morpheous himself as they plunge into the vortex/alternate hell)

This in turn raises another chain of thought :

Is the Ghost itself a representation of Ash’s own delusion/addiction or some “inner demon” made manifest?

Oh hang on , I already did the Ghost in the Machine thing.

But what if the Ghost is NOT born of the “machine” that is Avalon , but instead is a fragment of Ash’s own mind/soul?

This would also tie in with the such rare occurance of the ghost that it’s practically mythical and the pre-requiste of a Bishop in attendance.
My gist here is that only certain “special” players can ever see it , if both Ash and Stunner were both lost as I previously suggested , they would qualify.
And note, although he tried, Stunner could not shoot this particular ghost and that Bishop was there for Ash’s benefit not Stunner’s.
Bearing in mind the idea that Bishop is some “out of game” doctor trying to save Ash , perhaps it is him that is needed to track down the lost Ghost within the game world and try in some way to re-intergrate it with the rest of Ash.

i.e. It’s Ash’s ghost and hence with the way that Oshii translates “ghost” to “soul” - we are now presented with the situation of Ash’s own soul staring her down!

…and the decision with what to do with it in Ash’s hands.

…and *THAT* is exactly the way Oshii would like to end a film!

I said previously that I felt there was more to the Ghost - Now I really think I’m onto something with this.

Even after all the counter suggestions/ideas , I still feel that the film is basically about Ash and the struggle to save her soul.

…with a cliff hanger ending for good measure :D

Cheers ,

[MM]

January 11, 2012

Arhu said:

Hi there, SFAM.

I was trying to get to your Avalon review, but I get a 404 error. It was available previously at http://www.cyberpunkreview.com/movie/decade/2000-current/avalon/.

May 14, 2012

Fouad Boussetta said:

Thank you for your amazing website SFAM.
I pretty much agree with your interpretation of the movie.
I just want to point out that smart Mamoru Oshii purposefully put just enough uncertainty in his movie to make sure one can continue to obsess over it forever!!
I just love this movie…
[For those who haven’t seen this masterpiece, the subtitled version can be found on YouTube by Googling “Avalon (アヴァロン )”.]

May 31, 2012

Casey said:

Some excellent comments and interpretations in this blog. My thoughts on this having just watched the movie and reading most (not all) comments is such:

As already stated, Ash is “lost” in a VR (or subconscious) world.
The dog is the connection to the here and now.
Bishop is the real world doctor, who “taunts” her to keep her driven in her task to reach the top level.
The gamemaster is her conscious mind keeping her active.
The administrator is just the real world nurse monitoring her, giving her what she needs and wants to continue her existence.
The Wizard team is her manifestation (subconscious) to keep her going in her virtual existence.
As she starts to mentally break down, the team disbands leaving her to continue solo into abyss OR to reach the top level on her own (so she is not getting slowed down by anyone).
Stoner suddenly reappears and ignites Ash’s interest again, which is her subconscious having another go to get out.
Losing her dog ignites the fact she is losing touch, even with her perceived here and now.
Hearing the helicopter shows she is seriously questioning her reality.
Meeting Stoner again (an element of her subconscious) and the scene with him eating could be hinting at “do you remember what it was like to eat real food!”.
Bishop comes into play in Ash’s perceived real world to help her. In order to do this, she needs to enter her perceived VR world and hence she heads back to pod at the gamecenter at night.
The administrator hints that she wants to go home and waits for the clarity and confirmation that Ash want’s to proceed and get to a higher level. With confirmation she allows this midnight meet.
Stoner attempts to shoot the ghost but can’t because he is an element of Ash’s subconscious and she has to consciously make that choice.
She progresses to a midway world between her perceived, real and virtual reality, and real reality. In order for her to progress to another level she has to kill an unreturned, Murphy (who is an element of her subconscious) that was “lost” over time.
When she meets with Murphy, he tries to help her see reality which looks and feels like the current VR world she is in. She is in a higher level of consciousness at this stage. She can drop back into deeper unconsciousness at this point; Stay at that level of consciousness or progress to an even higher level of consciousness (possibly wake in reality) from this point.
Murphy needs to show her that she is still in a VR world and hence she needs to kill him and briefly believe (or remember) what a real death looks like, before showing her that she is still in a VR world by disappearing.
At this point she has to make a decision. The ghost in the theatre hall is her choice to either go up another level (possibly wake to reality) or to continue at the level she is on at that time, one step closer to reality.
The knowing smile from the ghost I believe is just her mind saying, I know what you really want! As to what that is…..well, that is down to the viewer!

I have not put down all of my thoughts but just a general overview from my interpretations, taking into account what others have said.

In conclusion, I believe the movie is about our subconscious and conscious choices about what reality is. How do we know what the colour red looks like? If a tree falls in a wood with nothing around to hear it, does it make a noise? Would we even be able to comprehend what an alien would look like? We are made up of something like 60% water! What would we look like if we were made up of 60% potassium? What would an alien look like made up of 60% of a mineral that we have not even come across before?

The movie is about our perceptions and how we choose to deal with life, whether consciously or subconsciously. An excellent movie to watch which can elaborate along a different path to this movie is one called Revolver. It refers to our ego or our perceived self. A very interesting movie. Search google after you have watched the movie for some interesting blogs.

Well that’s my two cents worth for whatever it is worth *^_^*

I do like the thought provoking movies! I have not watched the other ones mentioned in this blog but will look to watch them soon.

Thanks everyone.

July 23, 2012

Best Premium Themes and Templates said:

Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after browsing through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely glad I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back often!

July 24, 2012

Haqs said:

Murphy was living as a vegetable in the sepia-colored world, and was not plugged in the hardware used to access Avalon. So, if we accept the theory of “sepia-world=reality/Class Real=VR” as correct, how could the man shot by Ash be actualy Murphy? Could we say that Murphy uploaded his own mind to the game? Or would the “Class Real Murphy” be only some simulation of a former gamer created by the game? It seems to me that the theory of “everything is VR in the movie” makes things easier to understand.

Anyway, it is a great movie! And this Cyberpunk Review is also a great website! Thanks.

September 11, 2012

theairburns said:

In the opening sequence of Mamoru Oshii’s film Avalon we see the protagonist Ash involved in a virtual reality war game mission that she successfully completes. Only a select number of persons can play this game called Avalon, and an even more select number who get paid to play after they have demonstrated exceptional skill, almost always persons who join a “Party” of other players to combine forces to reach the highest level, but Ash is a preeminent solo player.
Players go to an assigned room at what is called a terminal branch, where large numbers of spectators gather in an open club-like room to view a large holographic projection of the war game. These clubs are run by a “Terminal Manager” appointed by state functionaries called Bishops. Later in the film it is discovered that these terminal managers can, like the bishops, enter the game at will without using the terminal access technology that players have to use. The terminal manager that Ash uses tells her at one point that “Avalon is just a game [that can be cleared]” but that a program inside the game called Special Class A, where Ash wants to go to find Murphy, a player who disappeared in Special Class A and whom Ash obsesses on (I would say loves) exists independent of the game and where a player cannot “reset” the game. Special Class A is a hidden-away, forbidden field outside of what can be controlled in the game.
The game is the exclusive form of entertainment for disillusioned youth and young adults trapped in a desolate, totalitarian wasteland, much like what was portrayed in Radford’s “1984” and Gilliam’s “Brazil”. Passive participation as spectators in the game is their only escape from their misery, and it is the best device the state has to control the minds of this group most prone to rebel.
We never see any ruler in this society, only two state functionaries, a terminal manager and a bishop. The latter is a person who had early on mastered the game and was then offered a job at controlling the game for the State.
The problem for the State, however, is that the game was originally designed by a radical, even subversive, computer programmer who goes by the name Nine Sisters for reasons that become obvious: the game was designed to mirror the Legend of King Arthur and how heroic warriors are eventually led to Avalon, a realm of eternal reward, free from the repetitive horror stories that we humans devise. This seems to have been the plan of Nine Sisters from the beginning: she/he took on the entire State, providing a path in virtual reality for those heroic enough to escape from the absolute and everlasting tyranny of the State.
The State has no choice. At first it outlaws the game, but soon realizes that the illegality of the game only inspires the youth even more to pursue it, the only form of rebellion available to them. So the State opts to keep the game as well as its illegality as a continued attraction under the guise of its being dangerous (a player could become brain-dead playing it) while simultaneously infiltrating it to take control of it and hopefully catch up with and destroy Nine Sisters’ hidden program—the ultimate escape from the totalitarian state into a life more abundantly.
The state functionaries make great headway in taking control of the game itself, but fail miserably at getting to Class Real, the heart of Avalon’s hidden program, although, at great expense to the State, the bishops have been able to gain partial access to the door to Class Real called Special Class A, but even this partial access is granted by Nine Sisters in his/her effort to get the heroes to Class Real. For example, Ash after entering Special Class A becomes more real than she ever has as a digital representation and extension of her self, but the bishop can only enter that realm on a digitally constructed monitor in his digital connection to Ash, not in his digitally represented self independent of his digital relationship to Ash. Nine Sisters is simply a genius that never met his/her match (we never discover who she/he actually is, but the implication is that he/she is immortal in the virtual reality landscape, her/his flesh having totally coalesced with his/her digital representation/extension).
The best way to advance in the game, becoming more powerful and making lots more money, is by joining a “Party” of persons with different skills like analyzing data, scouting and warring. It is almost impossible to reach the highest realm without joining a Party. Ash had belonged to a party called Wizard, the most renowned and seemingly invincible Party the game ever had (which made me suspect that Ash, Murphy and Stunner had become a series of clones through a century or more of State control). But during a particular battle one of the members pushes a “reset” button when in the face of danger, which can have dire consequences, and in this case it left them all brain-dead (it’s possible no one hit reset—this being a cover story to hide the real occurrence—that they were simply defeated because of a cowardly action on the part of Stunner, their scout-guide: it’s left up in the air of speculation). The three main members of Wizard—Ash, Stunner and Murphy, the leader—all become brain-dead (“Unreturned”) and become trapped in their digital selves inside the game, for the longer you play the game the more your physical (bio-chemical-neurological) existence coalesces with your digital self. But Murphy is the first to analyze the data and discern that this being trapped in the game is not a bad thing, but a plan by Nine Sisters to liberate him from the totalitarian regime, and that is what he begins to pursue and succeeds.
Once Ash is trapped in the game, the state functionaries create a program inside the game constituting her habitual “real life” environment that just keeps looping. But Nine Sisters is able to move into any part of the game at will, and always appears as a ghost—not just directly outside Special Class A, but in places like the hospital where the Unreturned reside in comas. Nine Sisters also provides a singular clue to what life is like in the hidden program of Avalon with the presence of dogs in the environments of digitally constructed persons who occupy space in the game, not only Ash’s dog, but all dogs (these pets have a hyper-reality in the game, in my view, because in the beginning Nine Sisters had used real dogs that over time, like humans, continually in degrees coalesce with their digital representations, and because they coalesced the longest, from the beginning, their digital selves are more real than the human digital selves, especially persons created not by a digital representation of real persons, but from data used to construct them within the game). It wasn’t the state functionaries that provided Ash with a pet (they are too cold and distant to accomplish that) but Nine Sisters, and the first clue that Nine Sisters is leading Ash to the hidden program of Avalon is when her dog disappears—the only creature that is “real” to her—and she is moved subconsciously to go after it.
The State’s functionaries called Bishops work tirelessly at great cost to find a way to destroy the hidden program because their employers, like all tyrants, despise any semblance of freedom (O’Brien, the interrogator in “1984” tells Winston when he’s stretched out on the torture rack, “Winston…if you want to see a picture of the future, picture a big black boot stepping into the face of humanity into eternity.”)
We only get to see one bishop in the film, one of the “successors to the Apostles”, the original group formed by the oligarchs to control the game and find a way to destroy Nine Sister’s hidden program. The bishop we see, in trying to convince Ash to strive to become a bishop for the State, explains to her what her purpose would be: “Ash…you know which is the better game: One you think you can clear but can’t…or one that looks impossible but isn’t…Finding that subtle balance…and maintaining it up through all the levels…is our side’s job.” In other words, the State now knows after possibly centuries that the immortal Nine Sisters will always be nine steps ahead of the State, but that is no reason not to fight. But whereas the tyrants cling to hope for success, much like governmental leaders of our time cling to the hope of war as a means toward some good, the functionaries have learned to just enjoy the fight itself—the meaning is in playing the game the best you can and nothing else, and because Ash is a master game-player, the bishop is confident that this is the best enticement to have her come over to their side and work for the State, fulfilling her deepest longing: The fight itself IS THE GAME which is the only meaning in the life of a warrior.
To get a better sense of all this one can consult the writings of Marshall McCluan, the 20th century Canadian philosopher who got the ball rolling in understanding technology as the extension of man. Or consult that memorable scene in Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey where our ape-like ancestor discovers a weapon. He becomes so enthralled after using it successfully in battle, that he flings it high into the air, and the scene shifts in that instant to the future, the weapon now appearing as a spacecraft in flight. And with the digital age the monitor is now the ultimate extension of man, first explored in Cronenberg’s Videodrome, and then The Matrix, and then the ultimate artistic expression in Avalon.
With the death of God, or, more accurately, the death of a glut of misrepresentations of God, especially by Christians, comes the death of transcendence, and something must replace it, for it is a natural program in our nature required for our fulfillment as persons, and the analogous digital realms of high abstraction dominate in this field. What was once promised by Judaic-Christian prophets is now promised by technocrats.
Oshii’s masterpiece, although combining all the “data” of mystical traditions East and West, including that of the highly advanced Greek pagan culture, analogously, it is Christian symbolism that dominates in cluing us in on the death of transcendence, even though the Catholic Church hierarchy is specifically used analogously to denote the corruption of functionaries in religious institutions and what is inherently evil in how they can so easily abuse their power, even seek to abuse it in a deliberate heightening of their sense of power, and in light of the child abuse scandal the evidence is in. But the Church’s main opposition for over two thousand years has been the gnostic impulse that reaches for higher spiritual ground by separating from the body and living in pure spirit; but Oshii does not succumb to this kind of spiritual quest. Like Jews and Catholics, he wants to have his cake and eat it to, to have spirit coalesce with flesh, made visible in Avalon when Murphy bleeds at the end.

January 30, 2013

Orion said:

I just discovered this movie. Obviously, we’re meant to be left with questions. The big question that I have after witnessing the ending is: if that girl is the aforementioned ghost, and the ghost was indicated as being a neutral character, and Ash will be stuck in Class Real if she harms a neutral character, what will happen if she were to shoot that girl?
In order to complete the mission, Ash needs to kill the Unreturned. Plural? As in, all the Unreturned are people that failed in Class Real? (In which case: what was the mission of the very first player in Class Real, since there were no Unreturned yet?) And she needs to eliminate every single one of them? If it had just been Murphy, the mission would have shown completed before she went inside to see the girl, after all. And since the girl doesn’t strike me as an Unreturned, the girl is not a mission objective. And yet, in order to get into Class Real, a player needs to shoot the girl, since it opens the gateway. So perhaps shooting the girl again opens the gateway to leave.
So brings me back to the question: what will happen if she shoots the girl?

March 24, 2013

Karnal said:

I think people are reading way too deep into the movie. You guys forget that Murphy was the best player at the time in Avalon. Bishop approaches the best player and gives the the best prize..choice. He tells them they are acting as debuggers but once a player realizes how great it is… would they just let the “bug” run wild and stay in Utopia or make the choice to go back to the real world. Murphy was given the same job for debugging but he decided to stay.

November 3, 2013

The Hermit Named Dave said:

I just watched Avalon for the first time last night, and though there are about a gajillion comments here already, and I haven’t read all of them, I’d like to add another, as I interpret the movie differently from the commentators I’ve read so far.

I notice many resemblances with Tarkovsky’s great film Stalker–for example being filmed in Eastern Europe, using sepia monochrome for most scenes and full color to represent a kind of higher reality, and also spiritual symbolism and a (partly) spiritual message.

It would seem that ALL of the realms Ash enters, including the one that is supposedly reality, are only virtual realities. This does not necessarily imply that there actually is a “real” reality: It may be, like some Buddhist philosophies teach, that all versions of reality are illusions. The Special A level isn’t real because Murphy dissolves after dying, and the world she returns to between games isn’t real either, as indicated by the disappearing dog, the books with blank pages, and the people who look and act no more real than the ones in the game Avalon.

Avalon is the realm of dead heroes; thus it appears to be a realm of death. It may be that each return to the “real world” represents another lifetime in the cycle of birth and death, or it may be that the realm of death is also the realm of dreams, and Ash is simply waking up to another day. The fact that in order to reach the highest level of this realm of death she needs to interact with a ghost and a bishop (as in the last rites) appears symbolic of this.

Murphy (also a bishop) wasn’t ready to stop taking birth in a lower phenomenal world, and so he had to be forcibly ejected. But when Ash earns the right to stay and stop returning to her less real world, she becomes like a god, one of the creators of the phenomenal worlds, not just a player.

So in this interpretation, Bishop is a kind of god (in a polytheistic sense), and Ash finally becomes one. This interpretation doesn’t seem to explain why Ash eats so little in the story, or why Stunner eats so much, though. Maybe it represents how she is going beyond this world and its seeming necessities, while Stunner is still worldly and unready to go beyond.

January 19, 2014

Fred said:

Hi

What do you think of this:

As Vastgene brilliantly said the whole movie is VR. Throughout the movie elements such as Stoner eating food, dog disappearance, books blank and at the end Murphy’s red blood are all possible wakers to Ash’s realization she’s become one cold, distant, unemotional b…h. Sorry for the language I am only trying to emphasize what Oshii’s message might be.
When she shoots Murphy I had the slight impression Ash showed some emotion for the first time. The red blood in full colour is indeed a strong reminder that real life ain’t about gaming or making war all the time. But that wasn’t enough for Ash because Murphy “pixel vanished” proof she might have felt some emotion but still considered it to be part of the game and was kinda happy like that.
At any time in the movie she could choose to quit but till the end she doesn’t and prefer to go on like this.
I don’t think that it is a specific action like killing or not killing the ghost/Murphy that could do the trick. It’s one’s will simply. There is no trick and the vision of Oshii isn’t very positive. I read some interview about him and his vision on technology/screens/wars being shown as entertainments on tv are phenomena he doesn’t seem to approve of.
So I see Avalon as a superb yet gloomy testimony of how we become more and more dependant on technology and that it’s transforming us and not always in a good way as in the case of the heroin Ash.
The fact that it was filmed real but then reworked on PC only accentuates this.
Fantastic movie all in all; quite a guy Oshii-san.

January 30, 2014

Koval321 said:

I have still many thoughts month after watch this movie. Possibly my concepts are not correct but well here they are:

Avalon was created between two Ghost In The Shell and some references are visible. Both GitS was anime cartoon, and this one was actors movie. So maybe Avalon is class real for GitS? IT IS TRILOGY (all of them connected) So in this theory you actually need to watch all of them to get the message, solely it wont work. Or you may get different interpretations depend if focus only on movie or as trilogy.

Am not sure if you are aware of that but movie was created inside psychiatry hospital building. Where they enter game, where they eat where is reception etc its all hospital. So maybe they all are not players but patients. Where class real would be winning game = be cured and leave hospital to real world. And they think its still game but with better graphic LOL Ok so these machines used to enter game may be actually electro shock chairs and game master is doctor.

Other explanation I see is something about time traveling. Its more complex and confusing. First agent didn’t want complete task and probably this way he win longer stay there believing that its reality and future don’t exist. Which is actually true it was reality just in past, and from that point of view future didn’t exist. Probably Ash decided to do exactly the same later. This hologram at ending could be Holo-Generator, some machine they trying to destroy.

It may be also matrix, where they exit matrix and want destroy machine which create game. They live from game because they was part of it entire time. They live IN game.

April 8, 2014

Gabriel said:

May i say one thing? The atmosphere, the colorless reality, is very similar (to me) to Orwell`s 1984. The limited access to resources like meat or vegetables, the clothes, the alcohol (at this one, i dont know if its something cultural about Poland) and the ¨stop avalon¨ posters remind me of that socialist London that Orwell suggested in his book. But when Ash gets in Class Real and the color is everywhere the first thing you see is a NIVEA sign in the bus. SO i thought this: Oshii means the real life, the real world is a capitalist one? I know Poland was part of the Soviet Union during some time.
PD: sorry my bad english, not my native language.

June 22, 2014

Rydia said:

You guys lost it…it’s much more simpler than all the things you said.
I think it is clear: Ash shoots the ghost in order to be part of the nine sisters, the programmers of the game. They used Ash through Bishop and the thief, in order to remove Murphy from Class SA so they could develop that level of the game, which Bishop said it is experimental. Which is the reason why is locked, so nobody can access while they are programming it.
BUT Murphy managed to access, and with him inside, the programmers could barely do anything else. Their work got stuck. So they sent Bishop, who uses the thief, Ash’s friend, to bring her into Class SA in order to help them by shooting Murphy out.
And as a reward, she would be part of the development team of the game Avalon. BTW, Avalon is the whole game, not the Class SA! You really lost it there!
Besides, Ash isn’t interesed on living in a virtual reality. She has her dog to take care of, she only plays the game because that’s her job! Ash makes money out of it. It was Murphy who didn’t want to live in the real world.
Watching the dog as a guide through all the Class SA represents her feelings and her wish to return to the real world. She has somebody to take care of.

June 26, 2014

^_^ said:

thank you for explaining symbols. especially rescue part details.
i want to add another analogy - one is sitting at the computer, in his room(for example). room have tons of details , things or even cat.
when one is paying attention on something(website through pc) this huge detalization of the real world is simply ceases to exist.
instead he is now in the other reality, less detailed - primitive website page.
the difference is that in the usual everyday life there are no distinct transitions and if cat will jump on the keyboard, one will suddenly returned back from the fps game that he was in completely.

analogy in movie - Special A high detailed world and bare and primitive “real” world.
i think that events described in the movie are omnipresent in everyday life. one is becoming whatever he wants when he transfers his attention to it. other is simply non existent while one will not pay attention to it
also i have interpreted cupids differently - i thought that there were the original broken cupids which are the prototypes for ‘not real’ cupids which are broken. and vise versa. i never thought that man-woman love can be involved in movie and thus never noticed

^_^ said:

maybe that was on purpose, to prevent actors from reinterpreting his idea and from damaging it, distorting it with theirs perception. and they are also were looking like stupid soulless actors. like NPC in the game. i never watched Oshii interview or something besides movie, and thought “what a remarkable game of the actors! what a powerful Oshii’s influence on them!”. i really like this kind of actor performance! it completely eliminates theirs personalities and allows to see and understand the whole idea! =*^_^*= the actors themselves are looking very clean, like NPC in the old games like Deus Ex !

^_^ said:

so actors in the result are completely hollow and one can see whole idea through their somewhat “lifeless” bodies. all they can do regarding Oshii’s idea - is interpreting (and thus distorting)separate words and phases, not more. whole idea thus stays unchanged. humans always are influencing on each other by their thoughts and thus changing each other. maybe Oshii blocked their influence(their interpretation of the whole idea) from changing original idea. not every man can understand Oshii. in anime you have full control on character behaviour through influencing on artists(animators) who in turn just easy to controll(taking in attention their age and clean unprejudiced minds) tools.
also i think that actors at the same time were very live because they simply didnt knew how to do in details, this trick maybe creating the need for actors to raise awareness and constantly wonder, search “what should i do?”. in everyday life such situations when there are no exits or understandable solutions, one can change own limits, evolve. its just like buddhist tricks ^_^

^_^ said:

the frustrating moment maybe - actors were nervous because of non standard situation. maybe they have some fears about playing somewhat “wrong”. only independent, “ego”less, fearless actor can play without nerves and anxiety in such non standard situation. and such performance should look fantastic. personally i really think that actors(not all btw) are constantly stressed, tensed during the movie.

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