Cat Soup (Nekojiru-So) is probably one of the most enticingly surreal films that I have watched. It lasts only half an hour – thank God, because I don’t think my brain could interpret much more! It was written and directed by Tatsuo Sato and released back in 2001.
The film is likened to ‘Hello Kitty on acid’ … and I can see why. Though, it’s such a captivating representation of a reality that, in some way, you really want to explore more.
To be honest, I can’t coherently explain this film, nobody really can – even Sato himself! The basic premise of the film consists of a kitten trying to save his sister’s soul after death comes to take it away. Unfortunately, as he tugs at the soul against death’s firm grip, it splits in two – so, he returns half the soul to his sister and they both embark on an incredibly bizarre journey to the ‘other side’ to retrieve the other half of her soul. There is no dialogue, the occasional speech bubble appears and in the circus we do hear voices – which is interesting because the sound is simply what you would hear if you listen as you fast-forward a tape. It’s refreshing to watch something that isn’t driven by dialogue.
The film looks pretty innocent and happy from the outside but, that – it is not! It actually gets pretty violent…for a start the little kittens father is a massive alcoholic. And some scenes, for example at the circus – we see, who I believe to be God chop up a woman, brutally. And then fly the body pieces around the room and put her back together in the air. God a circus attraction, eh? Take what you will from that.
This is one of those films where, if you’re the type of person who can just sit back, enjoy some trippy, psychedelic visuals and not get caught up in the specifics – you will love it. And if like me, you search for hidden meanings in every image – prepare for your brain to go into overdrive. I actually do think that this is a brilliant film, and the thing that I love the most about it is how non-specific it actually is. After watching the film I was still fairly confused, so I did a little research on what inspired the film, the surreal images and the overall premise. Basically, Sato tends to get questioned a lot on: why he put this in that shot, and what that sign means…what that character represents. And really…he doesn’t always have an answer! He admitted that on occasion he didn’t have anything specific in mind when he was drawing up a scene, it was just there. I find this comical, because if you have ever been in a media studies lesson, you will be told that every single piece of a film, every character, every shot, every noise has this huge significant underlying message – when in reality, sometimes it is actually…just there.
That itself is what I love most about the film. Also, it seems really powerful and interesting to me that each individual who watches this will take so many completely different meanings from it.
To me, it’s like fairytales and biblical stories merged into one insane adventure. We see God, performing in a circus – and then a giant wave floods the entire world – no land is to be found. The kittens and a pig are left on a small wooden boat (intertextual with Noah’s Ark), the flood eventually dries up and the adventure continues on land. This is where we eventually get to a man who takes the kittens in, he gives them food – lots, and lots of food! Birds (which he kills in front of them, and the younger kitten enjoys watching a live bird burn a tad too much), a giant gingerbread house smothered in syrup, and bigger birds. Eventually the kittens end up in a giant cooking pot…remind you of a certain fairytale? Anyway, the list goes on. You do also see time fast forward, then slowly rewind, as it rewinds you see all of the harm and damage mankind has inflicted on earth – atom bombs, murders, cars crashing, the great depression suicides and wars. When the time is reversing, it does so by God pulling a lever and stopping the cogs of the earth from moving, the earth is a part of a giant clock – reminds me of the watchmaker (design) analogy by William Paley, relevant? Maybe, maybe not…that’s what I love about the film – it actually allows you to delve into your own personal little interpretations!
Final point…as I am now rambling, the end of the film – time has re-wound, the soul is back in big sis’ body and the family are watching television – the little bro kitten has excused himself. One by one each of the kittens’ family members get ‘switched off’ as you would switch off a TV. The kitten returns, confused. We then cut to an exterior shot of the house in darkness – just one flickering street light until – the shot is too, switched off. Now, this could refer back to God who was originally controlling the worlds or the power and reliance our contemporary world has on media OR – as the film does circulate around the bad nature of humans (warning I may be looking waaaay too far into this) but it does kind of remind me of the whole controversy of the electronic banking conspiracy – and the great global blackout which plunges the world into chaos and slavery. Probably over thinking there, admittedly that is just how my brain works! Either way, thought I’d share my odd interpretations so watch the film and let me know some of your own!
Catch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_HdMLe-pZM