Angel's Egg

Tagged: Film

Japanese Original Video Animation Film (1985); original title Tenshi no Tamago. Studio Deen. Created by Yoshitaka Amano and Mamoru Oshii. Directed and written by Mamoru Oshii. Voice cast: Mako Hyōdō and Jinpachi Nezu. 71 minutes. Colour.

A young man (Nezu) watches a vast eye-like sphere, adorned in praying statues, descend into the sea. Meanwhile a girl (Hyōdō), carrying a large egg under her dress, travels through a bleak megalith-strewn landscape to enter a derelict Gothic city (see Ruined Earth), deserted save for the still figures of fishermen. A convoy of futuristic military vehicles arrives, but only one person is aboard: the young man, carrying a high-tech Weapon shaped like a cross. He asks what is in the egg, but she will not say.

As the fishermen come to life, futilely attempting to harpoon the giant coelacanth shadows that move through the streets, the pair leave the city, returning to the girl's home: a stranded boat, wherein myriad fossilized skeletons cling to its architecture like vines. On a wall is the image of a tree, which kindles the young man's memory: he recalls "a huge tree, it sucked the life from the ground" reaching towards "a giant bird sleeping within an egg … dreaming". He then tells the story of Noah's Ark, but his ending differs: the dove did not return and, never finding land, those inside forgot who they were and why they travelled (see also Generation Starships).

The girl shows the young man a fossilized skeleton of an angel, believing it to be the bird he mentioned. It affects him: as she sleeps he smashes the egg. On discovering its fragments the girl wails and pursues him, falling into a flooded ravine. Her last breath bubbles to the surface, transforming into eggs: they grow roots and reach to the sky, with bird embryos inside. The young man has gone to the beach: the sphere resurfaces, having added a statue of the girl cradling an egg. From the perspective of the departing sphere we see the landmass is the hull of an immense overturned ark.

Amano has said of their collaboration "the religious and esoteric part is Oshii and the fantasy element is me". Oshii lost his Christian faith (see Religion) just prior to making Angel's Egg. This is an Earth abandoned by a God who did not remember Noah – the floodwaters not subsiding (as they did in Genesis 8:1) – making it, biblically, an Alternate History (see also Eschatology). The film is densely packed with symbolism: for instance, the young man is first seen on a Chess board, carries a cross and has bandaged hands (one wonders as to his feet); so his being a pawn and whom he represents might be readily inferred. But attempts to see past these surface metaphors – to perceive why they were chosen, their intent – is rendered opaque by the ambiguous imagery. Oshii has mentioned Andrei Tarkovsky as a major influence

The film was not well received on release. Oshii, previously a director on Urusei Yatsura (1981-1986), commented: "nobody gave me jobs for three years"; though he eventually went on to direct Mobile Police Patlabor (1988-1989) and Ghost in the Shell (1995). Angel's Egg is now rightly considered a classic. Aside from its obscurity, criticism might be levelled at its pacing, being prone to linger and fond of the slow pan – but these are minor issues: it is excellent, an evocative, strange and disquieting work.

Some of the Angel's Egg animation was incorporated into the otherwise live-action Post-Holocaust film In the Aftermath (1987). [SP]

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