Ghost in the Shell (GHOST IN THE SHELL/攻殻機動隊 Gōsuto in za sheru / Kōkaku kidōtai, lit. Ghost in the Shell / Mobile Armored Riot Police) is a 1995 anime science fiction film based on manga of the same title by Masamune Shirow. The film was written by Kazunori Itō, directed by Mamoru Oshii, animated by Production I.G, and starred the voices of Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ōtsuka and Iemasa Kayumi.
Source: Wikipedia, 06.10.2014, links retained

Ghost in the Shell is one of the most vivid, dynamic, imaginative, beautiful films of the 20th century. It’s a film growing more and more relevant as time passes: another way of putting this is to say the world is growing more and more like Ghost in the Shell – unlikely as this may seem at first glance.

Ghost in the Shell is a great work of art. Works of art are works of art because they produce a very high output of possible interpretations. They create possible worlds, in which we, the readers or viewers or listeners, are in turn rendered possible – that is, we find ourselves opened to interpretation, because the work of art embodies a kind of life we can’t entirely control, or contain, or understand.

It’s sometimes said that a great work of art is inexhaustible: no matter how many different ways of interpreting it are applied, further exploration is always possible1.

The film won’t be to everybody’s taste. It’s an animated film, and although a lot of prejudice regarding the aesthetic status of animation has been shed over recent years, still, people in certain cultures, or in certain parts of cultures, do associate animation purely with childhood and with childish things – “it’s only a cartoon”. This is a shame, because animation offers wonderful experiences completely unobtainable through traditional live-action films. (A devotee of animation as an art form might find it quite easy to reverse the polarity of the view that it’s “only” a cartoon: they could turn round and say, dismissively, “oh, it’s only a live-action film”.)2

Ghost in the Shell is ostensibly a genre film – it’s “science fiction” or “cyberpunk”. You could also say, it’s an “action” film. It’s also, in many ways, a “spy” film, a film very much haunted by espionage, subversion, terrorism, political unease in an era of unprecedented technological expansion. Or perhaps it’s a very odd “rom-com”?

Profoundly philosophical, dealing with fundamental issues of identity, autonomy, freedom, determinism, the film sheathes within its dazzling pop-graphic aesthetic a sophisticated enquiry into the nature of humanity3.

I intend to post a short series of remarks on Ghost in the Shell. These remarks relate to philosophical issues raised by the film, and concentrate on the film’s vision of humanity as an uneasy interface between nature and technology, the organic and the machine. The general theme of the series is the limit of the human, or human limitations.

Is it a modern theme? A timely one? It’s certainly fashionable, in this era of trans- and post-humanity.

It’s also banal, commonplace, wholly obvious, and yet not necessarily noticed: it’s where you live, where you are reading this text. After all, don’t we each of us stand very simply at the limit of the human? We stand at the frontier, the forefront, because we stand in a place and a time no other human being has stood before. (“Our continuing mission…”) We are the limit of the human. So, we limit humanity.

But now?…

matrix | <notes> [next page]

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