Cyberpunk Review » Avalon

January 24, 2006


Year: 2001

Directed by: Mamoru Oshii

Written by: Kazunori Itô

IMDB Reference

Degree of Cyberpunk Visuals: Very High

Correlation to Cyberpunk Themes: Very High

Key Cast Members:

  • Ash: Malgorzata Foremniak
  • Murphy: Jerzy Gudejko
  • Game Master: Wladyslaw Kowalski
  • Rating: 9 out of 10

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    Overview: Mamoru Oshii, the master of philosophical cyberpunk animes ventures into a real world cinema production. The actors, dialogue and sets all take place in a Poland. Although this isn’t anime, the characters, cinematography and philosophy bare a striking resemblance to Oshii’s latest anime (which might show up on this list soon…). There is also many aspects of the Arthurian legend intermixed here, including the quest for the holy grail (understanding the nature of reality?), the search for the nine sisters of Avalon, and wizards, warriors and bishops. If you’re an Oshii fan, this is a must see. If you love VR game films this is a must see. If you like embedded philosophy and symbol laden movies, you will probably enjoy this. But if you’re coming purely for the action, there are probably better movies for you to spend your time on.


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    This movie takes place in a cyberpunk, dystopian future where the world is stark, devoid of real life or color, and where the only real enjoyment for young people exists in an illegal virtual reality game called Avalon. Avalon in mythical terms is the island where souls of the departed heroes come to rest. In the Virtual Reality Game of guns, tank and helicopter battles called “Avalon,” the players are the heroes, but there is a risk of actually becoming brain-dead while playing this game. In real life, the “unreturned” victims who never leave the game become human vegetables who sit around drooling in an insane asylum (this explains why the game is illegal).


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    The main character is a hot warrior chick named Ash (wonderfully played by Malgorzata Foremniak). Once, she was a part of the best team in Avalon called Wizard. But something happened which caused one of the team members to panic under fire and call for a “reset” of the program (This is a traumatic action which causes all sorts of bad things to happen). This caused the team to disband and in Ash’s case, led her to be disconnected from all other players including Murphy, her team leader. Instead she becomes a supra-warrior who attempts to win the game going solo.


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    During her adventures, she learns that Murphy also went solo, and eventually worked himself up to finding a secret level called “Special A” that does not have a “reset” function. If you don’t complete the level, you don’t return. In essence, this level IS Avalon in the mythical sense. In Murphy’s case, he did not win, and ended up becoming one of the “unreturned” who lives out his “real” existence drooling in the asylum. Ash becomes obsessed with reaching this secret level so that she might find Murphy and return him. To complete this level, Ash needs to kill an illegal “unreturned” player. If she does wins, she will be offered a game admin job with Avalon. Unfortunately, Class Real is filled with “neutrals.” If Ash kills any neutral person she will lose, never to return.


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    When Ash asks the Game Master if he’s real or not, his response is telling: “Does it matter if I’m real or not?” Like GITS:2 there is this notion that the line between what is real and what is imaginary almost doesn’t matter. What matters is what is actually occurring inside someone’s head: that is the “true” reality.


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    Use of a Dog as a metaphor for the “real” world: Again, similar to When Ash plays with her dog, she is participating in the “here and now.” Most of the time, Ash’s consciousness is situated in a timeless world where the actual real life moment is secondary to one’s perceptual reality. At one point early in the movie Ash wonders aloud, “Real life, is that what this is?” When she starts working at the computer, the dog goes to sleep, indicating that she has left real life and is in the game reality, if not in body, then definitely in spirit.


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    The cinematography: The cinematography in Avalon is strikingly familiar to Oshii’s latest anime. The same use of lighting, camera angles, and bright orange/yellow/brown tones are used. Interesting shots involving shadows abound. Throughout, the sets and camera pans are designed to elicit a closed-off, claustrophobic feeling. Everything, from Ash’s apartment to the train to the virtual reality headset rooms to the alleyways are bare and boxed in. Slow moving but sweeping pans add to the claustrophobia. Scenes are rarely at regular speed.  Instead, the pacing is very slow moving to allow the audience time to take in the essence of the mood. In line with the pacing, Oshii continualy composes set shots similar to how he does in animes. In essence, we see glorious and elongated still shots of visually textured and wonderfully balanced objects.


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    The FX and Sound: The special effects, while not on par with the high-end blockbusters, hold up well when compared to most VR type movies. Most impressive are the digitized explosions.  When people and tanks "die" they digitally decompose in interesting ways.  Similarly, when you enter the game, buildings  auto-form. Also, the score is both haunting and moving. It highlights the slow build-up of thought and emotions. The mood of the film is clearly expressed through the score, which often serves as a catalyst for the pacing changes.  As the major plot points change, so does the score radically follow suit.  And the ending Avalon opera is just beautiful.  I would pay to go see someone sing that.


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    The Bottom Line: In short, Avalon is a wonderfully deep philosophical cyberpunk flick that fully explores whether reality truly matters. In essence, does it really matter if the fantasies we have running in our heads don’t really match the “reality” of the outside world? Or more to the point, is anyone really experiencing the reality of the outside world, or are we all just in our own personal Avalon? I hesitate to add more here, as doing so would spoil this most excellent movie for those few unfortunate souls who have yet to experience it. I have just one piece of advice - do so now!

    But if you have seen it, I’d be happy do discuss detail philosophical thoughts with you concerning Avalon on Page 2: the Avalon Interpretive ending page. Many have expressed confusion over the ending, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on it. So if you have spoiler type questions about this movie, put them on page two (which also has more screencaps).

    Page 2: Spoiler Discussion –>>


    ~See movies similar to this one~

    Tags: cyberpunk movie review Avalon oshii

    This post has been filed under Hot Cyberchicks Kicking Butt, Awesome Cyberpunk Themes, Dystopic Future Movies, 9 Star Movies, VR Movies, Awesome Cyberpunk Visuals, Cyberpunk movies from 2000 - 2009 by SFAM.


    January 27, 2006

    SFAM said:

    […] I will probably write a separate essay on this, but just to be clear, this viewpoint shows that the Matrix trilogy is the philosophical sequel to Ghost in the Shell (GITS). GITS2: Innocence does not follow Motoko’s journey after she integrates – Neo does. GITS2: Innocence is really a furthering of the philosophies that Oshii advanced in Avalon, meaning that conceptually, GITS2: Innocence is the sequel to Avalon, not the original GITS. […]

    February 7, 2006

    Piotr said:

    Foremniak is awful. She played mainly in polish soap operas. In Avalon her acting is terrible, she does not understand what she says. Mamoru Oshi does not understand polish so he did not care. On IMDB People who can speak polish agree with me.

    But you can benefit if you don’t understand polish, you will not be shocked by the acting and enjoy the movie.

    February 8, 2006

    SFAM said:

    Hi Piotr, welcome to Cyberpunk Review!

    I guess I can’t argue too much with your comments as I don’t know a word of polish. All I can go by is the visuals and her voice emphasis - both of which worked fine for me - very well in fact (I’m guessing this is what Oshii cared about as well). I know a few others who also feel this way about Avalon. But yeah, I’m sure Foremniak comes across different to those in country. Karlo above made a similar comment in that Foremniak is negatively viewed by some for her soap opera performances as well. This too I can’t comment on. All I can say is that as a foreigner who has never seen her before, I did love her in Avalon. :)

    EDIT: And again, the ideas expressed in this movie are just terrific.

    February 11, 2006

    Piotr said:

    Ok You are lucky that you don’t know polish. :)
    I think that t would be better that Oshii had an assistant director.
    How could it be acted good without someone who understands polish.
    And its very difficult to act in blue box, so…

    I remember that Oshii said in one interview that he choose polish language because it sounded mysterious and he did like.

    I will have to see this movie in Japanese version :D

    SFAM said:

    Hi Piotr, Oshii mentions on the DVD extras that he basically treated the actors like anime characters. All that was important to him was the visual acting and the intonation. From someone who doesn’t speak Polish, this is all I can judge as well. It certainly “seems” very well acted - again, the visual performances fit wonderfully I think, as does her intonation. Again, I can’t guess at the words, but I don’t think I agree with you that A director shouldn’t try directing a film in a language he doesn’t speak. It certainly presents challenges though, and clearly, Oshii’s method works from his standpoint. It is strange though that Polish folks hate this movie. I’ll take your word for it that it doesn’t come across as well to native Polish speakers.

    February 12, 2006

    Piotr said:

    Believe me Foremiank played very very very bad. I have some experience in amateur theatre as an actor.
    She speaks like she did not understand what she says, its really terrible!
    As I said she is an soap opera actor, and playing in blue box is difficult.
    But people who don’t speak polish never notice the bad acting so. Its not so bad for Avalon.
    And Yes polish language sounds strange so the artistic effect is achieved(if you don’t understand polish).

    As I said You are lucky that you don’t understand polish. :D

    But I dot think that Avalon is bad movie. I don’t hate it!
    I think that GITS is an masterpiece, Avalon is no match!

    Hey all you polish speaking people WATCH THE Japanese version!!!

    Some reviews in polish :D
    With some short summaries in english
    “The actors are dead stiff, its a scandal.”
    “Foremniak is so unnatural that the whole cinema laughed.”
    “Foremniak is terrible and spoiled the genius screenplay”

    February 17, 2006

    Neuromancer said:

    There are numerous hints (proof?) that all realities in the movie are part of a simulation.
    It could be intended that Ash feels this way herself and this is how the world looks like to her. I mean, from her point of view.
    The fun of this movie is that several options are available and we, as a viewer, get to choose the one that suits us best. Kind of like: we choose our own reality. Not only in the movie but in real life as well.
    I think Avalon is the real world as we know it and the real reality, Avalon and Class Real are all part of the game. My guess is that Ash is nothing more that a character in a game we, or better Oshii, play this game with. The whole movie is the game.

    SFAM said:

    Ah, so you see a Thirteenth Floor plot happening here, ey? I’d be interested to hear the proof.

    It’s an intrigueing thought, but I don’t buy this. If for no other reason that Oshii uses the dog to represent reality. The interesting shift occurs when the dog leaves “real” reality for Class Real. The other reason is that it seems like the big question Oshii is posing is whether a virtual reality can be more “real” than real reality. If both are fake, the ending question seems to dissipate.

    Anonymous said:

    Okay, some examples of what i mean:

    The “real” world:
    A good example would be that Ash experiences exactly the same tram-ride home. No-one even moves or looks at Ash. The people all look frozen. Notice the skies? Not moving.
    Another would be that Ash sees the ghost while visiting the hospital. This while the ghost should only exist inside Avalon.
    Ash is one of the best Avalon gamers but she never gets any e-mail. We do see her checking for e-mail several times.
    We see Ash looking for books but later see the books are nothing but empty covers. Like in a game (read book…nothing more)
    At some point Ash prepares a meal for her dog. You know, the long scene with the colours of the food emphasizing its importance. After completing the meal the dog is gone and the sound of the helicopter (from the game Avalon) can be heard.
    We can see Bishop watching Ash using a rifle sight from the game.

    Most obvious the death scenes, resetting the game and so on.

    Class real:
    The death of Murphy.
    Ash mysteriously seems to acquire clothing, jewelry etc as she walks in the streets.
    The disapearance of the orchestra and the appearance of the ghost

    You can interpret this is several ways:
    - Ash is playing this game which consists of all “realities” in the film.
    - Ash is in the game (as a gamecharacter, maybe guided by the actual players)
    - We see the real and virtual worlds as Ash perceives them, not as she really sees them. Hence the bleak real world and the vivid class real.
    Welcome to Avalon could mean there is another level above class real and Ash enters it (could be reality, exiting the game and returning to the real real world)
    it could also mean the game is completed and reset. Welcome to Avalon meaning you can play again (exit, play again, restore save game?)

    Anyway, considering the themes in other movies by Oshii it would seem he wants us all make his or her own interpretation. We should stop trying to find out what it is the director actually intended by the script. I think he is making the point that reality is different for all people. Who is to say what is real or not. And who is to say what makes us human or not (like in GITS)?
    This is the same in for example a movie like Total Recall. There is more than one reality and we as the viewer get to choose what we believe.

    This is a great movie that just like GITS makes us think for ourselves instead of following the Hollywood truths without a mind of our own. It’s great just looking at a movie like this and examining all possibilities to finally find one that best suits your own thoughts on some filosophical issues. Thats what Oshii wants us to do: at least think about some of these issues.

    Or i could be completely wrong about all of this. That doesn’t matter either because at least i had some fun thinking about this movie. And that’s a lot more that the visuals of a movie like Star Wars or the next Hollywood blockbuster could ever do.

    Forgot to mention this before: like the site, my compliments there!

    February 18, 2006

    SFAM said:

    Hi Neuromancer (I’m guessing), great post, great point, and very well defended!

    Neuromancer states: Anyway, considering the themes in other movies by Oshii it would seem he wants us all make his or her own interpretation. We should stop trying to find out what it is the director actually intended by the script. I think he is making the point that reality is different for all people. Who is to say what is real or not. And who is to say what makes us human or not (like in GITS)?

    I certainly strongly agree that Oshii intended for this movie to be interpreted - the ending scene pretty much demands this. In terms of your examples and their meaning, I definitely see who you come to the impression that everything is part of the game. And really, from my attempt to understand Oshii’s messsage (I do believe he has an intentional one), my guess is he wouldn’t disagree with this in the sense that if “real” reality is constructed, then there really isn’t that much difference at all between the “real world” as depicted, the game or class real - from Ash’s point of view, they are all the same. Her choice is which one does she want to stay in.

    Just a side point - Total Recall uses the crazed “continual mindfuck” approach of changing our understanding of the plot at every moment. This, I think, is a cop-out to getting this idea across when compared to something like Avalon, which provides its questions in the context of the narrative. While Total Recall is a fun movie, at least with me, it didn’t prompt nearly the degree of thinking and analysis that Avalon did.

    Piotr said:

    Total Recall is great!
    But I like Running man better!!!
    Think about BIG BROTHER stuff!!!!

    SFAM said:

    Running Man better than Total Recall???? Hmmm….you will not be happy with my review when I get to it. And I do like Total Recall - it’s not bad…its pretty fun. It’s just not as philosophically interesting as something like Avalon. For instance, I didn’t sit around and ponder it, nor was I immediately motivated to watch it again.

    February 19, 2006

    Neuromancer said:

    Yup, it was my comment. Forgot to enter the alias.
    I completely agree a movie like Total Recall can’t compare to the depth of a masterpiece Avalon is (IMHO ofcourse).
    It was merely used by me as an example where the movie presents more than one storyline and the viewer gets to choose. Just trying to get my point across there.

    I also have a suggestion of a movie to add to the reviews: Brazil by Tery Gilliam. Definitely in my all-time top 10 movie list.
    Though not as good as Brazil also Equilibrium also comes to mind. Perhaps: Johnny Mnemonic, Impostor and Equilibrium?

    Damn, i like this site!

    Piotr said:

    Yes IMVHO Total Recall is just an decent SF, Dick-alike movie.
    “Running man” is an sociological analysis of the nature of people and society.
    It could happen in next 5- 10 years. No philosophy(?) there but an sarcastic comment.
    Hey, we are animals, don’t we?

    Piotr said:

    >Running Man better than Total Recall???? Hmmm….you will not be happy with my >review when I get to it.
    I curious !!
    I’m also seeking argument with philosophical question science fiction!
    For example “Predestination”, with was not explored enough.

    SFAM said:

    Hi Neuromancer, Brazil will definitely be reviewed on this site, and will receive 10 stars (obviously). It’s truly awesome in many ways. It’s not a straight-up cyberpunk movie, but certainly has more than enough to qualify.

    Equilibrium is a great movie considering it was made for 20 million. While it does rate pretty well on the cyberpunk visuals, it’s low at best on the themes. But it will be reviewed here as well, probably with a 6 or 7 star rating, depending on how much the gun-kata bugs me when I see it again :)

    Johnny Mnemonic is already reviewed and Imposter certainly is on the docket too. I still have a good 30-40 definite movies and animes still to go before I even bother worrying about getting into the “possible” ones like Silent Running and so forth.

    SFAM said:

    Hi Piotr, my problem with Running Man isn’t with philosophy as much as it is with execution. IMHO, the movie was poorly made. As for this happening in 5-10 years from now, that’s a pretty scary thought!

    Piotr said:

    Ok you are right!!!
    Man, It was made 20 years ago!!!

    >Hi Piotr, my problem with Running Man isn’t with philosophy as much as it is with >execution. IMHO, the movie was poorly made. As for this happening in 5-10 years from >now, that’s a pretty scary thought!

    February 20, 2006

    Neuromancer said:

    Looking forward to those reviews!
    Another thing i am looking forward is: based on the novel by Philip K Dick.
    Remember the 90’s miniseries by Oliver Stone called Wild Palms? That one would fit the cyberpunk requirements just fine as well!

    SFAM said:

    Hi Neuromancer, agreed - Wild Palms does as well. I am going to put up a thread in the meatspace in the next day or two for all the movies I plan to review so far.

    And yeah, thanks for reminding me about scanner darkly - I need to make a post about that!

    April 7, 2006

    Case said:

    Like I mentioned elsewhere, I caught this again the other night on Showtime (too lazy to pop in my import DVD, I guess) and was blown away by it all over again. Simply one of the best pure cyberpunk films out there. Period. The end where the coloring changes in the “final level” just shredded my mind the first time I saw it…and it still does. Excellent film. It says a lot when even horrible dubbing for TV doesn’t lessen its impact. *Trivia: Did you know Oshii cast Malgorzata Foremniak as Ash merely (or mostly) because she resembled Motoko from his “Ghost in the Shell”?

    SFAM said:

    Trust me - the horrible dubbing lessens the impact. It’s better in Polish (um, unless you’re from Poland, apparently). And no, he didn’t mention that on his interview in the extras. She does look a bit like motoko, now that you mention it though.

    Case said:

    Well, I prefer it in Polish, obviously, but I didn’t think the dubbing hurt it, really…and I LOATHE dubbing, so that tells you something.

    April 10, 2006

    Hadakàar said:

    I saw Avalon in a “italian dubbed” version. Our dubbers often have high quality abilities and i like so much this movie. Overall, excellent interpretation of italian dubber of Muprhy.

    a note: Total Recall in italy has been translated as “Atto di Forza”. In english it means “Act of Strength”. Do this happens in other countries too?
    Starship Troopers was traslated as “Fanterie dello Spazio”, that’s “Space Troopers”.


    April 24, 2006

    szopen said:

    Terminator was translated into Polish as … “Electronic Murderer” (!!!)

    As for the movie, I loved it, but I didn’t like how Foremniak played. I kinda (kinda!) liked Murphy’s performance (but he played quite rough sometimes) and Game Master.

    Then, it works both way. I remember how surprised I was when I learned that Clooney is considered “wooden” actor.

    SFAM said:

    Hi szopen, welcome to cyberpunkreview :)

    And Clooney has gotten better over the years :)

    May 12, 2006

    Max_Hugo said:

    In 1978 I got my first TI99, from then on I’ve been a cyberpunk.

    I’ve waited so many years for a movies to come out like this one Avalon, (ASH) with her PK and the Murphy (was he real?) in a VR state of mind (I don’t type so well it’s hard for me to put to words to thoughts that are in my mind about the movie.)

    I would just like to say as Max_Hugo the gamer (not master) there could have been more shadows in the game (I understand it’s a green screen in VR but with low sun light it would of cast more shadows) and to the other gamers that where in Avalon at the same time they took to long to bring the plot into view.

    I like the movie as a movie watcher I understand it’e been out for yr’s but I work and game I’m a husband and dad so I don’t get to watch many movies (Gaming is a passion like the one Ash had, the end for me tells the truth WHAT I THINK IS REAL……)

    September 13, 2006

    Jurek said:

    Piotr, I am also Polish and I cannot agree with you at all. You just mislead non-Polish speakers. Foremniak is one of the most popular actresses in Poland and she has a very big fan following. She is pretty, intelligent and a good actress. She played in Avalon at least quite well.
    Sorry, but you just show one of our greatest national vices - we, Poles, can’t stand if another Pole is successfull and we can’t live without complaining.

    September 19, 2006

    SFAM said:

    Hi Jurek, thanks for stopping by! You’re the first of about 5-6 folks from Poland to comment on this movie in one fashion or another, and so far the only one to really like Foremniak. :)

    Considering I totally loved her performance, I’m more than happy to agree with you. Hopefully we get some more comments on this.

    February 14, 2007

    Com Wedge said:


    O.K. Once I saw that the review was not written by SFAM I was relieved. I do not speak a word of Polish (Short of knowing what Birds Milk is) but I can see the poor acting. I’m afraid that # Ash: Malgorzata Foremniak and # Murphy: Jerzy Gudejko were both poor casting choices because they simply didn’t work well together. I don’t care if Foremniak is a soap actress and she cries at dead doggies. The point was she was a poor casting choice nuff said.

    I absolutely loved the visuals (save for the POOR ending sequence). The design of the characters in and out of the game was fantastic. It would have been nice to see a little less sepia (The brownish colour) as this has become an obvious choice for look and feel for movies of that time. The end, however you wish to interpret, was a bad choice of visually representing the next level.

    I enjoyed the film when I saw it however those repetitive tram rides and similar sequences just pissed me off to no end. It did not appear that this game was illegal by any explanation that may have been given to it - In fact it seemed encouraged - was this the point?

    A very detailed and complex world filled with B grade actors and superfluous notions of a cyber culture. 4 out of 10.


    SFAM said:

    Hi Com Wedge, sorry to disappoint - I wrote the review and am quite happy with Foremniak’s performance.

    February 15, 2007

    Com Wedge said:

    Die! I mean fair enough you have your point of view (I suppose).


    March 15, 2007

    Perditor said:

    I see a lot of comments from Polish people about how terrible the main character’s acting is. I haven’t seen this movie, but I can speak from experience having seen a few anime that even in English the words don’t flow very well (at least to me) - I figure this is because the words were originally written in Japanese, and there are a lot of nuances in a language that just don’t translate very often. She might not be all that bad of an actor - the script itself may be a bit awkward.

    SFAM said:

    Hi Perditor, I think most of the criticism from Polish folks is based on how they know Foremniak. She is an emotive soap opera star there - generally these aren’t actresses people like to see in Sci-Fi movies.

    I do wish I could speak Japanese to see if I agree with your word flow part or not. Personally, I was very happy with the English translation in this. But then again, I tend to enjoy many animes, some of which have very nice word flows. I do agree that doing the translation well makes a difference.

    March 21, 2007

    Ramiz said:

    Great movie! I love Oshii. The only thing that bothered me about Avalon was the Polish language. Sorry Polish people ^^ but it was so unfamiliar for my ears; I’m used to Japanese or English when watching cyberpunk and so it was strange. (Although I’m from Middle Europe as well). I loved the movie, I’d give it 8 or 9 from 10.

    May 20, 2007

    griffinfinity said:

    Great movie, great actress in the lead. Loved the music as well. I wanted to go where it took me, I wanted to look at the female in the lead and follow. I wanted to listen to the score. The movie took me to another realm/place. That is what I hope for when viewing a movie, number one, above all other aspects.

    I’ve seen quite a few foriegn (to my Los Angeles perspective) films lately and although I have to ‘read’ what they are communicating, they have been well worth the time invested. One of them, Casshern (Japan) was a film so amazing in the visuals department that the dialogue didn’t really matter.

    As an extreme gamer, I can say that film is of the same value to the participant: escape into the world of those that believed enough to share the vision…


    May 30, 2007

    Paradigm said:

    This is incredible site. I loved reading all the reviews and posts.
    Just wanted to add one thing, and this is purely my conjecture.
    I think the significance of the Bassett Hound in all of Oshii’s film, is that it signifies santuary, for the character. This is quite apparent in GitS: Innocence, when, at the end, Batou comes to Togusa’s house to take his dog back. Toward the end of the film, Batou’s longing for the Major has intensified, and although I don’t know if it’s a love or now, his loyalty for her could’ve have gone much further than what happened in the end. Through all the violence and mystery, Batou must’ve felt that what he was doing was to find the Major. But through his progress, we can see that he is becoming doubtful, questioning himself, and possibly what he does in Section 9. So I think it was only natural that seeing his dog, could’ve only brought him back to ‘reality’, a place where his existence could be constant, a sanctuary. A place where he, in the end, chose to return to.
    Just my 2 cents.

    June 25, 2007

    Merzmensch said:

    “Avalon” is IMHO one of the best cyberpunk movies about the problems of reality(ies). I’ve seen this movie 14 times to unterstand the messages of Mamoru Oshii. Well, normally I’m not such a movie recidivist, but this masterpiece changed me, hehe. And every time I’ve seen the movie, I’ve got near to the heart of the film, I’ve understood the language of the film.

    I can understand a little Polish, so like Piotr said, the actors hadn’t often a clue about what they said. But in my opinion, it wasn’t a minus of the movie, it was surely Mamoru Oshiis intention. In the fact, he has never any errors or goofs in his movies - each time you notice something wrong, you’ve to follow this “mistake”, because this is a key, like a “white rabbit”. The persons in this movie really don’t act like “real people” (well, what’s reality?…), their acting like a puppets or poor actors is the key to authenticity of their persons.

    That’s why you can feel the giant gap, the great difference between Ash and the other World (Oups, spoiler) at the end of the movie. (This also isn’t real, indeed).

    So this movie is great examination of the reality-problem.

    By the way, thank you for your site, this ist quite the right thing I’ve looked for.
    And sorry for my bad English.

    SFAM said:

    Hi Paradigm and Merzmensch, thanks for the compliments on the site. I love it that I can help people find cool movies like this, and also give you a place to discuss them. :)

    Merzmensch, take a look at my spoilers page (link at the bottom of the review) I go into my thoughts on the meaning of the ending - I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    June 28, 2007

    Monolithic Angel said:

    Wow, what a great flick. If there was ever a movie that could be considered Cyberpunk it has to be Avalon. It’s not only the visuals, which are great and very cyberpunkish, but its concepts, its metaphors, its message, its depiction of reality as the ultimate barrier to achieve true enlightenment, it’s all here.
    And man i love the actress that plays Ash, i think she really nails her part, although she lives in a dehumanized society with all the implications that it carries, she shows a very subtle emotion in those eyes…and she’s a cutie too!
    SFAM, i really think this is one of your best reviews, you are right on the spot on every aspect of the film, and it really shows how much you love cyberpunk.

    Sniff, i’m gonna stop writing right now before i get all mushy and emotional.

    P.S. I apologize for my bad english too!!

    November 12, 2007

    Xiv Spew said:

    I hate to be the lone dissenting voice in the comments of this review, but I honestly did not like Avalon at all. I bought it sight unseen due to the high rating on this site, and I’ve wholeheartedly agreed with all the reviews thus far. Progressing through it, without reading anything about it apart from the review, I expected something wholly different. Though honestly, I shouldn’t. Reading it again, there are no factual errors nor misinterpretations…even the screenshots look great. But watching it for the first time, I couldn’t shake the feeling something was way off; then it dawned on me. Every shot, every line, every set-up was straight out of an excellent anime. The fact that it was shot like a real movie makes me question how successful animation can translate to real life.

    Trust me, I’m not trying to be a hater, because the story and concepts the movie brings to life are truly prime cyberpunk material. Especially as a gamer, a lot of the foundation of the story rung very true. Unfortunately, to me the fire in this movie’s belly was dead, bad Polish acting aside (I’ve hung out w/my polish relatives enough to read emotions properly). As previously stated, if the actors were replaced by excellent, even mediocre animation, I would totally be sold on 9 out of 10. Very rarely have the credits started rolling and I’ve instinctvely yelled “THAT’S IT?!?” and ejected the disc in frustration. Obviously, judging from many other’s comments all over the web, Avalon strikes a very strong chord with cyberpunk fans. I only wish I could ride on that boat.

    Merzmensch said:

    @Xiv Spew

    I can really good understand your feeling.
    Exactly the same feeling I had the first time I was seeing this movie. A lot of details was just disturbing in an annoying way. But this disturbing was a little strange, a little ambiguous. So I’ve seen the movie more and more times, and every time I was just “Oh, I see now the clue”. So I think, there are always two opinions about that movie: the negative (”sceptic”, “realistic”, “formalistic”, after watching just one time) and positive (”idealistic”, “open minded”, “semiotical trust in the symbolic language of the movie”).

    Perhaps I may over-interpret it, but after 4th or 5th viewing of the movie I’ve got the idea, everything in that movie is perfect. The “wooden” Polish acting, for instance - for me it was just a “puppet acting”, because everybody


    in the world of Ash and in the Battle-Levels is just a simulation, just an AI or something in that way (well, also “our reality” is virtual, but in some high quality way). So the negative view of the movie were “the Polish actors are just reading theit screenplay without actually playing”. The positive view were “these all figures are just bit and bytes, so they speak their programm”.

    For example look at the dogs (Oshii Mamoru’s favourite actors :-) ) in these two sepia levels: they are really vivid. OK, the negative viewing were “The dogs cannot act like people, so people are representing the VR, and dogs are just dogs”. The positive, symbolic view were “The dogs are the keys to other realities; while of peoples comatose “living” in their grey virtuality, the dogs can sniff out another realities”. etc. etc.

    I honestly found almost in every strange annoying part or element of the movie its conceptual meaning.

    So there are various viewings and opinions about this movie, and this makes the movie such great.

    November 13, 2007

    mamc2501 said:

    hi everyone! i love avalon & mamoru shii too ^^

    and i made this vid that u hope can see

    I can not even decipher the secret of the film

    Things like: that these sculptures of angels appear broken and at the end leaves an already composed?

    Why add the scene “stunner” about eating eggs with sausage (at seeing immediately went to get some eggs, too)?

    You believe that the commercial “nivea” on the bus was part of the key? (LOL)


    February 24, 2008

    apxz said:

    Some observations
    1.The sky never moves in the “real” world
    2.When Ash visits Murphy in the Hospital we see the Ghost inside the same space with all the unreturned.
    3. After Ash finds and shoots the Ghost she finds herself back in her chair with all her headgear on. She removes it, we see the dog bowl and then she has her conversation with the Bishop. As she leaves to engage Class Real she walks through the same system of corridors she enters to play the game. We know this because before she enters the stairwell to enter Class Real, she walks through the room where she gets paid, but there is no one there but her.
    4. Before she approaches this room she looks into two empty player chambers off of the hallway, one of them has a screen on and it that reads “Stand By”
    5. When Ash is entering Class Real she has no shoes, somehow she winds up with a pair for the rest of the movie.

    I think the shoe thing is an oversight in the movies production proving that little cues could be mistakes.
    I think the whole point of the movie is to question reality, so ultimately Oshii makes it seem as if both worlds could be the real deal. Why have player stations on the “other side” with one of them on standby in the game itself; perhaps to receive the body of whoever losses the conflict in Class Real thus making this area of the game and the entrance to Class Real “real” and part of the game at the same time? Or is the standby room an entry station for the Bishop (which would achieve the same results)? Why have the Ghost in amongst the people in the hospital? How did she get there if she only exists in the game? Why does the sky never move in the “real world” and how do things like dogs vanish in a real world?
    Does she shoot the Ghost in the end? I think so. The only way to advance to the next level is to complete the mission, at which point the screen reads “Welcome to Class Real” (as an example). This happens in every advancement she makes throughout the game. Why would the last level be any different? The screen reads “Welcome to Avalon”, the only way for that to happen is to complete the mission. Yes, Ash shoots the Ghost; she is the best there is and ruthless within the game. She knows the answers we don’t because she has completed the game in its entirety.
    Why does Murphy give her his bullets? because he loves her and is willing to die to keep her alive (he still does not have all the answers as he has given up the game to stay in Class Real). The only ammunition she has is what is given to her by the Bishop. She takes Murphy’s ammo as a precaution against the unknown: someone would be coming for her… or not?

    February 25, 2008

    Klaw said:

    One thing I don’t know if anyone’s mentioned… I saw the Japanese version with English subs back in 2002 before Miramax released this, and was incredibly impressed. Recently I watched the Miramax version and was seriously disturbed about what a hack job it is, and wondering if much of the confusion and dislike of the movie is due to that.

    I can point to one part of the film it’s painfully clear… before Ash enters the game at one point she is speaking with the Gamemaster. In the original version I saw, they discuss the historical meaning of Avalon, King Arthur, and Odin… and the GM mentions Morgana tricks Odin by putting the helm of forgetting on him, to keep him trapped in Avalon… right as Ash puts on the VR helmet. In the Miramax version… this whole sequence is translated with no mention of Arthur or Odin… only some jibberish about “it’s dangerous in their today” and “be careful”. Completely lost poignant meanings with this crap translation. If this is mentioned earlier my apologies, I noticed this a few weeks ago and was so pissed I didn’t finish watching it again… one of my favorite movies.

    March 23, 2008

    Klaw said:

    Avalon has recently been released to BluRay, although it’s a Bandei Japanese release and very expensive ($100 US at present). But quality level of the transfer is markedly improved over any previous DVD or SD DVD release, which were a bit fuzzy considering this was all digitized and post processed. Here’s a link for the rich few who can upgrade and hopefully a cheaper US release is imminent.

    March 24, 2008

    CSuk said:

    I have been an anime fan for years and I love the work done in GITS 1 and 2 but this just left me totally cold. I’ve seen better animated actors give it more feeling. The character of Ash was just wooden and bland…the same as the film. There was no reason to have to think about anything deep in this movie as it was just completely shallow. Such a shame because when I knew it was an Oshii film I was really looking forward to watching it. I’m not Polish but even I knew that Malgorzata Foremniak hadn’t a clue about the role she was meant to be playing. The music and the use of sepia was however excellent.

    Stick to anime Oshii.

    October 5, 2008

    jjw said:

    This is very interesting. I’m very surprise note for this movie. In Poland movie is not very popular, however personally I think is ok. Some frames was made on the places when I lived, part of the Wrocław City, call “Bermudian Triangle”, very famous, because in the past, even today, many “people” disappeared in this place:) Real slums, real crime, real dangerous. First photos was made next to my flat, where underground still is some drink-bar which serve beer, vodka and boxing (head to head). Very good choice for CP movie !!!
    I’ve seen some Polish “cyber-punk” movies, however not so many. “Superwizja” (EN: Supervision - You are slave of television ?) for example, or “Wojna światów” (EN:War of worlds with Roman Wilhelmi) - well, are very good.
    Very interesting movie, base on Stanisław Lem story, “Pilot Pirx test” has been made with cooperation with CCCP (197x ???). FX maybe not so good like in “Blade runner”, but authors asked the same question: Who are You, human ?

    Merzmensch said:


    Interesting! Thank you for sharing the titles of Polish cyberpunk movies. Are there more such movies in Ploand? I also very like Polish movies. So Mamoru Oshii was great fan of Wajda, that’s why the majour figure has the name “Ash” (from Ashes and Diamonds, Popiól i diament).

    December 9, 2008

    kojiki said:

    Something about polish - russian SF movie “Pilot Pirx test”.

    I have watched this movie when i was about 10 years old. I couldn’t sleep after and i was thinking: are those around me real humans or am i being tested? :)

    December 30, 2008

    Bg said:

    I didnt expect such high note, this movie was totally underrated in Poland while Malogarzata was quite famous actress. Maybe ill check it, i heard about this movie years ago but, i totally forgot about it.

    Bg said:


    Its worth mentioning that its based on Lem’s novel. But i cant tell much about movie.

    January 21, 2009

    isis said:

    nice movie

    it seemed a bit weird to me first , but ended up a great movie

    August 23, 2010

    Voidable said:

    The theme revolving around this movie appears to be existentiality as with other Mamoru movies. Many people do not seem to understand what the movie is about so I will summarize my interpretation.

    It’s about a young polish girl so isolated from society that she adopts a deathly escapist mentality in which so she engages in an illegal gaming activity with a risk of potential harm. (People injured in the game are handicapped in real life.) This is a reflection of society as people seek thrills and highs etc. such as drugs and cigarettes. The dreary colours of her surroundings in the movie are a reflection of Ash’s thoughts and feelings.

    Ash’s only attachments to life appear to be her dog…and even less so her ex lover. She appears unable to communicate due to an idealistic lack of trust: for instance her sneer when other gamers or the reception workers attempt to make conversation with her.

    Slight Spoiler: Towards the end, Ash’s foray into a “better reality” reveals that even then, she is not enjoying the new life or setting. She does not slow down to marvel, not even in the opera scene. She is focused on her intent of beating the game.

    Then the end does come of course. And it appears to be letters on the screen. The real interpretation of this to me, is that although she has reached her end objective, she finds nothing there but the cold, sad reality of her realizing that there was never any meaning beyond everything she had come through so far. In fact, it may even reveal her inhumanity from the choices she had made with her time.

    To me Avalon represents a story of youth estranged from understanding a better purpose in life.

    Cheers, and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie though I do not share these believes as I’m Christian. Email me if you have any view points :)

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