Perfect Blue is set in a time where MiniDisc wasn’t an obsolete format, people still used fax machines, and the internet wasn’t easily accessible to everyone. Its cultural references may well shackle it to the past, but even 20 years on from its initial release it has a chilling message that still strikes to the heart of our internet-connected society.
Following the story of Mima Kirigoe, a Japanese idol who leaves her singing career behind to pursue one in acting, Perfect Blue looks at the impact of social media on the human psyche. In a time before Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat made us present a filtered vision of ourselves to the world, Perfect Blue delineated the future dangers of social media’s lens through the early days of personalised web pages.
After her shift into the world of acting, Mima discovers that there’s a website supposedly being run as her personal diary. Entitled Mima’s Room, the author knows everything there is to know about her – including which foot she stepped off the train with in the morning and how she frets over her first line in a TV show.
These moments sound small and inconsequential but, as other aspects of Mima’s life begin to unravel around her, Mima’s Room becomes a way for her to track her life. This filtered and idealised vision of who Mima is seems more real than anything else happening around her. Mima’s disassociation with real life comes from how much importance she places on the events within Mima’s Room.
Perfect Blue‘s director, Satoshi Kon pulls no punches here. The events that take place around Mima are violent and incredibly uncomfortable, but their ferocity is necessary. It emphasises just how little she cares for her own life when there’s someone out there living a better version of it already.
On paper it sounds heavy-handed, but in execution, you’ll continually be second-guessing yourself about who’s behind Mima’s Room. Its story highlights the impact of the erosion of personal privacy. It was an unknown to many back in 1997 but, in the always-connected world of 2017, it draws worrying parallels to the Instagram and Snapchat generation’s way of life. In many ways, despite having aged by 20 years, Perfect Blue is more relevant than ever because of the way we now peek into other people’s lives.
Satoshi Kon’s forward-thinking work has had a far bigger influence in modern cinema than you may think. His scarily accurate technological predictions have gone on to inspire and inform some of Hollywood’s greatest psychological movies. Fight Club, Inception and Requiem for a Dream all owe something to Kon’s work.
In fact, Mother! director Darren Aronofsky now holds the rights to Perfect Blue after he envisioned creating a live-action remake. Unfortunately, that project has never seen the light of day, although Requiem makes several nods to Kon’s work. You can also see heavy influences of Perfect Blue in Black Swan. It’s telling that this tale of the blurred lines between internet and reality, the conscious and unconscious self, has worked its way into the Western world through some of the 21st century’s more daring filmmakers.