Angel’s Egg – Who Are You?

In an effort to watch more anime films, I’m hoping to start a feature on this blog involving collaboration posts, analyzing anime movies past and present. Today we’ll take a look at Angel’s Egg, a rather artistic film from 1985. Draggle will be the co-author for this post! Draggle runs a great blog that updates very regularly, covering several shows episodically–so be sure to check it out if you haven’t already. But for now, let’s see if we can make sense of this Angel’s Egg film.

So… What Is This?

Cholisose: There is very little plot to this film, and not really any significant character development either. The way I see it, this is an atmospheric film–a movie meant to elicit emotions and impressions from the viewer. It’s not meant to be an entertaining story. And as such, trying to stick this film into a specific genre (other than “artsy”) would be rather difficult. While watching Angel’s Egg, I wondered periodically what I was supposed to get out of it. Is there a message to this film? There’s all sorts of vivid, powerful imagery all throughout it. Perhaps everything in the movie is meant to be symbolic? If so, what does it all mean? Interestingly there are many interpretations for this film, but at the end of the day perhaps the film can still be greatly appreciated when it’s just being watched for what it is. After all, must there be a meaning to everything in the first place? For an engaging experience, perhaps we only need to witness the situation of the film’s two characters and just… “soak in” the film’s atmosphere.

draggle: As Cholisose says, this is an atmospheric film. I agree 100%. And “atmospheric” is a wonderful euphemism for “unbelievably boring.” We’re treated to lengthy scenes of people sleeping and walking around aimlessly. The film’s climax centers on watching the sun rise and set. Most of the movie doesn’t even involve speech. The first time I tried to watch this, I literally fell asleep halfway through.It reminds me a lot of Aria, in which the whole purpose of the show is to soak in the atmosphere.

A Cast of Two

“Can you hear it?”

“I can hear it. A faint sound of breathing.”

“That’s the sound from your own chest.”

“And the sound of wings. It must be dreaming of flying in the sky.”

“That’s the sound of the wind outside.”

“It’s almost time. Right now it’s in here, dreaming… but you’ll see too… very soon…”

Cholisose: I personally saw the two main characters as foils for one another. They were both sympathetic, but they each represented different things to me. The young girl exhibited hope while the man presented a realist viewpoint (“Unless you break an egg, you cannot know what is inside of it”). Visually the two characters are essentially opposites of one another, save only for one thing: their white hair. Deep down, it seems the man really did want to believe there was still a bird left from the ancient times, but yet he still felt it necessary to break the egg. At the end of the film the man has a sad, hollow look on his face as he sees the young girl has passed away and somehow become memorialized as a statue on the giant flying machine. But perhaps he still yearns for some of that young girl’s hope? Her dying breath seemed to have brought many more eggs into existence, so maybe it’s not as bleak and hopeless of an ending as it could have been.

draggle: As Cholisose said, the two are foils for one another. The girl chooses to live in hope, even if it may be futile. The man confronts the hopelessness of the world and moves on. He sure took his jolly time at moving on though.

Atmosphere-Driven Storytelling

Cholisose: This is definitely not a film for everyone. And even amongst those who enjoy “different” films, this one may not click for some people. Everyone’s experience will probably be pretty different for this film, since it’s pretty much up to the viewers to decide what they’ll get out of it all. For me, I saw Angel’s Egg as a sort of overview of the human experience. The young girl caring for the large egg, for example, elicited delicate, nurturing feelings. The sequence involving the futile attempts of the faceless masses to capture the shadows of giant fish elicited rather frustrated emotions. And the man’s decision to destroy the egg was thoroughly upsetting, yet also disheartening. Just giving some thought to why the characters acted the way they did made this film worth watching–or at least it gave me some things to ponder about regarding human nature, perhaps.

The film’s extremely slow pacing seems designed to allow (if not encourage) viewers to ponder what they’re seeing, hearing, and feeling as they experience Angel’s Egg. The memorable character designs give off perpetually weary expressions. The intricately-drawn landscapes are massive, intimidating, steeped in mystery and history, and for the most part are completely devoid of life. And the rather haunting (yet awe-inspiring?) background music was interspersed with long periods of silence. All of these elements combine to create the pervading atmosphere of Angel’s Egg, making it a fine example of animation’s artistic potential to leave a truly lasting impression on its viewers.

draggle: The movie is certainly driven by atmosphere, but I feel like the word “storytelling” might be a bit of a stretch. It does induce emotions (boredom is an emotion, right?) but the entire story could have been told in five minutes. It did give the viewers a lot of time to ponder what was occurring. I’m not sure we needed all that time though. I’d argue that that Angel’s Egg is what you get when you let the animation’s artistic potential get in the way of storytelling.

Final Thoughts

draggle: I found Angel’s Egg both dull and disappointing. But if you struggle with insomnia, you might want to check it out. Thanks to Cholisose for inviting me to join in watching. I had been planning to watch this anyway, so no big loss.

Cholisose: As you can see, this film won’t impress everyone. Sorry, Draggle! But at least if you’re having trouble sleeping, you can give Angel’s Egg another go. And perhaps in your dreams you’ll be visited by the Ghost of Anime Past, who will potentially move you with a philosophical, literary, or religious interpretation of the Angel’s Egg film. Or perhaps just point out another film you’d like better. XD

For those of you wanting to prepare for the film collab posts in the next few weeks, feel free to watch these three films some time in the near future: The Wings of Honneamise, Loups=Garous, and Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo. For those of you who have seen Angel’s Egg though, what are your thoughts? Do you think the film had a specific message? And if so, what did you make of it? Do you think there was anything in the egg?

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8 responses

  1. The director used to be a Christian wanting to become a priest. Something happened, we don’t know what, and he abandoned his belief in Christianity. The bird that left the Noah’s Ark never returned, and men believing the bird will return, turned to stone. Fishermen tries in vain to catch mere illusions, in turn destroying what is real, and later drown. Director always believed blind faith to be dangerous, but perhaps in the film, through the girl and the egg she carries, there is something more to faith, and hope. Something that you carry around, that you cherish, that you believe in. Is that what it means to have a soul? Beautiful film, screenshot taken at any moment could be framed and make for a beautiful picture.

    August 14, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    • I heard the director had a connection with Christianity to some degree. With a title like Angel’s Egg, a Noah’s Ark backstory for the worldbuilding, and a lot of Catholic-style art and architecture throughout the film, perhaps this isn’t too surprising. The two characters can even be analyzed in this light (eg the man carries what looks like a mechanical cross; the forsaken young girl sacrifices herself, bringing life to the new eggs). The man in particular seems to be read as a stand-in for either Christ or the anti-Christ, depending on your interpretation.
      There are other religious elements at play in the film too though, I believe. For one I got some Taoist vibes from the whole segment regarding the futility of the soldiers trying to capture the fish shadows. There were also some Buddhist themes at play I felt, with everyone unable to remember events from the past (almost like past lives, it seemed).
      There are many other ways to read the film too, of course, and I’ve stumbled across a few that are rather fascinating. Perhaps this is the appeal of Angel’s Egg in general? I mean, you can look at a piece of artwork for a few minutes, but then discuss it for hours on end–and it’s your impressions of the artwork that make it particularly special.

      August 15, 2012 at 11:35 pm

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  4. jreding

    I took your review as an occasion to finally watch this movie. Excellent idea to do these film collabs, Cholisose, I’m looking forward to the post on Wings of Honneamise and will watch this movie, as well!

    I quite liked Angel’s Egg. I tend to like anime with lots of obscure symbols like NGE or Utena. While I generally would have appreciated some more plot I can do without it as long as the visuals are good. Angel’s Egg imo is awesome in this respect. Every frame looks impressive.

    The girl didn’t look cute in today’s moe sense but I soon felt protective towards her. I think since the Nanami Egg episode in Utena is my favourite of all anime episodes I have a penchant for girls who walk around carrying large eggs. (What might this say about me… ?). Poor girl having that egg destroyed by the guy. I felt unsettled by that scream of hers.

    I also loved the town which reminded me of some other Mamuro Oshii movies. Seems he likes Eastern/ Middle European cities.

    “Do you think the film had a specific message? And if so, what did you make of it? Do you think there was anything in the egg?”

    I guess the guy = Jesus. Alternative interpretations:

    (A) The egg was empty. “Jesus” redeems the girl who vainly cared for that empty egg. Hope for the world arises from this.

    (B) The egg was empty but what’s important is that the girl cared for it. “Jesus” destroys the only thing the girl cared for. Hope and humanity now completely vanish from the world which will be dominated by monster birds.

    (C) The egg was just a symbol. “Jesus” rapes the girl and she commits suicide.

    In any case I’ve been rooting for the girl so I’m not really happy with the ending. But I suppose there won’t be a sequel.

    August 23, 2012 at 7:03 am

    • Thanks for the comment, jreding! The Wings of Hon post should be up pretty soon, so look forward to that!
      Anime that are symbol-heavy are kind of hit-and-miss for me–I suppose I have to care about the story on some level in order to care about the symbolism. Why Angel’s Egg clicked with me while other anime haven’t, I’m not entirely sure. Probably a lot of different factors at play.
      The girl definitely had a look about her that’s quite different from characters you get in most anime today. She had a rather weathered look about her as would fit the setting, but I think what stood out most was her hair. I suppose there was just more detail to it than you usually get, and instead of a sleek and shiny hairstyle, it was ragged and unfettered. Even wild, perhaps?

      I like the points you bring up in your interpretations. Perhaps the biggest surprise to me in Angel’s Egg was the fact there seemed to have been nothing inside of the egg. I suppose it’s possible the man took whatever was in it, but there were no signs of a… mess. Just the egg shell pieces. (Plus, there was no follow-up scene showing the man doing anything further after destroying the egg…)
      In one way, did the man free the girl from an empty, meaningless burden? Or perhaps it doesn’t matter that the egg held no deeper meaning? It gave the girl something to live for, after all–something I’d imagine would be difficult to come by considering the setting of the film.
      This is likely a film where one’s interpretation will vary a little from one viewing to the next!

      August 24, 2012 at 11:13 pm

      • jreding

        Agreed re girl’s hair – it looked like every single hair was animated and moved in it’s own way, quite impressive!

        August 29, 2012 at 2:46 am

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