Title: 空気人形 (Kuuki Ningyou)
English Title: Air Doll
Release Date: 2009
“Everybody in this town is empty, it’s not just you.”
One day, a blow up doll comes to life. A very pretty blow up doll, by the way, played by the Korean actress Doona Bae. She moves about, slowly at first, then leaves the house while her owner is gone. In the outside world, she experiences everything with joy and wonderment for the first time. Except for some faint lines and the fact that she is full of air, she looks entirely human.
Her explorations in the outside world are cute and harmless at first, but a trip into a video rental store change things; here she falls in love with one of the employees.
Hirokazu Koreeda, director of Nobody Knows and After Life, uses the life of this one doll to represent many of the things that we often deal with and encounter in life. Although the doll’s life is short, she covers a lot of ground – from child-like wonderment, to love, to heartbreak. The themes represented in the movie as well, are ones that are meant to be universal; those of love, desire, and loneliness. Some of the sweetest moments from this movie, are lines spoken by the main character, Nozomi, and the man she falls in love with Junichi, played by Arata. These are made even more powerful because they are firsts for Nozomi; “I told a lie,” she says in one scene, “Because I have a heart, I told a lie.”
The soundtrack to this movie was really pretty and one of the first things that helped rope me in. There is very little dialogue in many parts; instead we are left to experience the world through the eyes of a doll, with the help of the music playing in the background. Something of a combination of tracks from Amelie and 28 Days Later – sweet, yet heavy at the same time – the movie is filled out with the help of simple keyboard melodies, accordion, and a few strings.
As the movie gets further along, the parallels between Nozomi, a blow up doll, and the people she is surrounded by start to become clearer. “Everybody in this town is empty, it’s not just you,” an old man tells her, and we begin to understand one of Koreeda’s messages: everyone is fragile and weak on the inside; we can’t survive without supporting and being supported by others.
Koreeda also returns to some themes that were at the center of After Life. Nozomi’s creator, a doll maker, asks her, “The world that you’re born into…is it all pain and suffering? Or is there anything…beautiful?” To this Nozomi faintly smiles and nods, her maker and the audience receiving confirmation that, although life is full of hardships and suffering, there are beautiful moments too.