photo: press materials
Teen Suzu, who lives in Kōchi Prefecture, struggles with the trauma of her mother’s death. At home, the girl cannot get along with her father, and at school she avoids confrontation with others. Her entire social life is limited to dating a tech-fixated, very exaggerated nerdy. Everything changes the moment Suzu joins the world of U. It is a virtual space where everyone is anonymous and functions as an avatar. Suzu’s internet alter ego – Belle – is a beautiful and self-confident singer who, after her first appearance, makes headlines in all articles available in this universe. Interestingly – in fact Suzu is not able to produce a single melodic sound. She lost this ability years ago and regained it only in the U space. In the virtual world, however, it is not so colorful. The presence of the beast puts on the alert guardians who take the annihilation of a mysterious figure as a point of honor. Our Belle discovers, however, that the Beast is not what others think he is …
Hosoda has shown more than once that he is not afraid of difficult topics. In Belle it is no different. The creator wonders how virtual reality can affect us. It shows the functioning of a person who is never left by the great pain after the loss of a loved one. There is even a history of domestic violence. There are many topics, and two hours are not enough for everyone to be fully presented. For people who value a solid cause-and-effect sequence above all, this can be a big problem. We know very little about the operation of the U-world itself, which is the starting point for the entire production. We don’t understand how it works from a technical point of view. Nobody mentions what happens to a person in the real world when he is mentally in the U. It is also completely incomprehensible that the greatest punishment in the U is to reveal the avatar’s true identity. Why is it so important? The script is deficient and it’s hard to hide it.
The plot is gaps in the plot, but there is something that can make us forgive Hosoda for these stumbles. I mean, of course, the visual aspects. The animation is innovative and absolutely beautiful. The U platform impresses us with its monumental structures, refined avatars and vivid colors. We look at it and we can fall in love very quickly and even want to join this world. And then we have a change of perspective and we are in calm and somewhat faded Kōchi. The creators showed here the contrast between the real and virtual worlds.
The music in this production is of great importance. Singing alone is a skill that shows how online Belle is different from the real Suzu. Original Japanese songs performed by Kaho Nakamura are catchy and long after the screening we will catch ourselves humming the melody we know from the film. We listen to the next songs with great pleasure and we get carried away by magic Belle.
For some time now, we have been observing the phenomenon of retellings in pop culture, i.e. new versions of fairy tales known to us from our childhood. And something like that also appears in this production. The creators involve threads that we can associate with Beauty and the Beast. Was it necessary? Not. Has it added charm? Yes. And while we’re at the charm, let’s look for a moment on the emotions that the new film of the Japanese director evokes in us.
In my opinion, the best word for Belle is “cute”. Yes, no other word better describes what this movie is like. During the screening, at times I felt like a teenager who experienced the shy steps of the couple on the screen with her whole self. Later, I was delighted and soaked in the riot of colors and sounds. There were also times when I was deeply excited and even a little stressed out by what was happening on the screen. But the first feeling was the strongest. The warmth on the heart was felt throughout the screening. Sometimes more, sometimes less. This film evoked a number of different emotions for me. But finally, by the time the end credits appeared, all I could do was feel the honey melting on my heart.
Belle is a film that captivates, surprises and absorbs. Of course, the plot could be more elaborate, but in this case I believe that the visual aspects and emotions that this screening gave me patched up all the scenario gaps. I know they are there, but they do not bother me at all in my perception of the film.
During my studies (and not film studies!) I fell in love with cinema, then I started to write about it, and it stuck with me.