Completely Arbitrary Utena Interpretationgreenspun.com : LUSENET : The Art of Film : One Thread
Today I found an Utena Movie forum full of people who seemed to have no clue what the film was about. I don't say that in a mean way, many of them honestly begged to have the movie explained to them. So I descended from Mt. Wannabe Film Buff and offered my interpretation. Then I realise "Hey! those other wannabe film buffs will want to see this too!" so here we go. Don't read if you haven't seen the movie yet, ect. ect. The forum's at a place called Anime Grapevine if you want to look for it.
A car with no key will rust, because it doesn't go anywhere.
What an interesting forum! Reading over the posts I am at once delighted by the variety of discussion and discouraged by how many people claim not to "get" the movie, giving the story such a low rating. There are even people who insist it has no meaning at all!
But the truth is, "Adolescence of Utena" is actually quite easy to understand once you've made a few simple connections. For example, red roses/castles/water/boats/prince&princess mean dreams, fantasy and delusion. Insects/Shiori/Kozue are the pain, hatred and jealousy that force us to take refuge in dreams. Nudity means truth, reality, and freedom.
Just take a look at how these symbols play throughout the film. In the scene where Utena meets up with Touga, the boat/prince/castle painting hangs in the forground. The garden where they talk is filled with red roses and gravestone crosses (I call this place "the prince's grave" because it's where Akio is buried and it's where we meet Touga. This is probably why Utena finds the Rose Signet there.) Later, when she meets Anthy, it's in a beautiful dreamlike garden of red roses. In her battle with Saionji, she stands up for Anthy's rights, which causes Anthy to save her(Utena reminds Anthy of Dios, so she tries to rebuild the fantasy of being a princess protected by a prince.)
In another key scene, when Touga is raped by his stepfather, thousands of moth-winged Shioris surround him. Then, when Utena attacks Anthy, accusing her of stealing Touga, there are several closeups of moths hovering over the lighting fixture.
Utena cries, saying that Touga promised they would watch the stars together. Anthy repeats "Stars?", then chops the waterpipe, which allows the brightly shining stars overhead to be reflected in the water (it looks like they're surrounded completely by stars, but it's just an illusion.) So then their reflections (delusions) sport prince and princess outfits and they begin to dance with carefree abandon, as red roses float all around them and all across the school.
The next day, Utena decides she wants to get to know Anthy better. The ultimate result is that they end up stripping for each other. When Anthy takes off her clothes, she reveals the truth about herself: she has no heart, she only exists to make her Victor's fantasies come true. The boat/prince/castle painting is where her heart should be.
She also reveals that she was molested by her brother, but allowed it to go on because she was blinded by her delusions of being a princess and having a prince.
Let's see. The scene where Tougs "dies" doesn't really need an explanation. It's obvious that he sacrificed himself to allow Utena to be free of her delusions. Afterwards Anthy claims that Utena is her prince, that Utena is worthy of the Rose Bride's miraculous power, and that they'll be happy together forever (red roses are all over the place, of course.) But Utena rejects her saying "let's go to the outside world!" and the car wash emerges from the ground. During the transformation scene, the red roses are blown away from the arena. There's a sort of flashback where Akio says "A car with no key will rust, because it doesn't go anywhere" (obvious symbolism) and Anthy finally finds the courage to leave.
The car chase is pretty straightforward. Anthy is chased by Insect cars (including Shiori and Kozue) and is "saved by friendship" as the Shadow Girls put it. Then she goes up against the fantasy castle and finally her prince. He tries to lure her back, but she rejects being a princess just like Utena rejected being a prince. Akio and the castle crumble into fragile petals.
The final scene, with nude Utena and Anthy, is profound, simple, and touchingly symbolic. C-ko's final line is a phrase to live by. Then, of course, we have the final image: a dark and desolate castle which is ripped away in a flurry of rose petals to reveal a crystal clear blue sky.
-- Frostbite a.k.a. Frosty the Snow Chick (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 15, 2001
Thanks for posting it here. Very interesting, I see you're quite the film student... I loved Utena when I saw it, but much of the symbolism escaped me. Hey, don't you prefer Lusenet to that Anime Grapevine place? Less red tape to go through, and you don't have your posts "graded" by the admins (shades of Orwell, brr).
-- Inukko (email@example.com), May 22, 2001.
I stumbled across Anime Grapevine during a random search. I've never tried Lusenet. I'll give it a whirl.
-- Frostbite a.k.a. Frosty the Snow Chick (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 23, 2001.
Okay, I'm an idiot. Just forget I said that last part.
-- Frostbite a.k.a. Frosty the Snow Chick (email@example.com), May 23, 2001.
Err, I mean LUSENET... ;)
-- Inukko (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 23, 2001.
I just ordered the DVD, I'll have my thoughts posted soon after I view it.
-- Mat Rebholz (email@example.com), December 25, 2001.
You know, now that I'm minoring in English I cringe at that crappily written essay.
-- Frostbite (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 26, 2001.
Oi, guv'nor! Wot's this about yer English?
Really, I could care less about syntax or "proper" sentence construction; you were coherent, easy to follow, and successful in conveying the idea. That's all that matters. Besides, your prose goes down a treat ;)
-- Inukko (email@example.com), December 31, 2001.
Well, what an amazing movie. I can see why Peter told me to "rush" to see it. Disorganized miscellaneous comments to follow:
I loved the architecture and their use in the background art. It very much reminded me of the first season of Aeon Flux, the convoluted and maze-like Breen architecture, dream-inspired, and unrealistically implemented. This tipped me off immediately as to what sort of world this was.
Ever since I heard about the "car transformation scene" a year ago, my interest was piqued... and now I've finally seen it. It was amazing, to say the least. And the final scene, Utena and Anthy riding that sexual-freedom-symbol of an automobile, hair flying behind them as they explore a brand new world... great great great.
The Japanese dialogue is much preferrable (in case you've only seen it in english -- the official english voice acting was horrible).
The plot (possibly): ESCAPE! Anthy and Utena are mired in backstabbing and silly games, and in guilt, and in the past. Touga and Akio (the Prince) are manifestations of this guilt. The obsessive pursuit of Princehood is the inability to let go of the system, of the past, of guilt. Utena has forgotten the nature of Touga -- she's trapped in the mental dungeon of the Academy. Anthy is a kindred soul, a twin of sorts, who feels guilt at the death of her brother Akio. Utena feels guilt for the death of Touga. Touga himself knows escape (remember the cabbage field scene? The most amazing in the film, in my opinion). And once Utena remembers the nature of her existence here and of Touga's state of being, just before she enters the rinse cycle, Anthy expects her to draw the blade from her once again, to perpetuate the cyclic existence here of "The Game", as they call it. Utena denies it.
Despite all the romantic scenes in this film, I don't get the impression that it's about love at all. Perhaps the sexual union of Utena and Anthy is simply a physical depiction of their mental union. They've escaped the comfortable/painful life of concealing the truth, and now they've got to feed off of a desperate land, facing reality together.
-- Mat Rebholz (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 03, 2002.
I view it as being about drug addiction. Or addiction to anything which you use to escape reality. I've noticed since that I have a similar problem, spending too much time on the internet and not enough in the real world. (Though I've been working on that lately.)
-- Frostbite (email@example.com), January 03, 2002.