Angel’s Egg: Exploring Lost Faith
What is faith? Is it the blind following of an inconceivable divine force, or is it absolute dedication to a pure lifestyle? Faith and religion are constant targets of controversy and debate in contemporary society. All mediums of art, from paintings to novels pitch in on the subject, both for and against its fundamental ideas. Many presentations also leave interpretive findings rather than a straightforward answer. One outlet with such an outcome is the Japanese fantasy film “Angel’s Egg” (1985), directed by renowned animator Mamoru Oshii.
“Angel’s Egg” is a highly avant-garde experience, containing little dialogue and an emphasis on visual storytelling rather than exposition.
The story follows an unnamed girl as she scavenges a seemingly post-apocalyptic, gothic city for water as she carries around an egg, despite not knowing what matures inside. In the city, see meets a young man who appears to be some sort of soldier, who joins in her wandering amongst the wasteland, carrying a cross-like object.
Religious symbolism is littered throughout the film, and for good reason. It is very important to note that Oshii, while making the film, was experiencing an existential crisis with his personal Christian faith. This knowledge could change how many interpret the film and its themes.
As mentioned, “Angel’s Egg” doesn’t present outright opinions on religion, instead leaving subtle clues for the viewers to pick up. The connection between the girl and the egg is our primary clue. Because the girl displays a sort of over-protection of this egg over the thought that it one day may hatch, it can be deferred that this relationship is like that of unyielding faith, an almost unreasonable devotion to an idea for no apparent reason. The girl has no evidence that the egg will hatch, yet she continues in her day-to-day task of wandering and waiting.
The soldier, on the other hand portrays a different train of thought. The girl initially runs from the soldier, frightened by a stranger. The girl becomes tranquil when he returns the egg, which she accidentally leaves behind during her initial escape. The soldier shows constant curiosity about the egg, and brings up to the girl the possibility of breaking it to see what lies inside.
From this point, I see two distinct interpretations on what the soldier represents. On the first hand, we must explore the very first scene of the film. The man sits on a flat, chessboard-like plain, with a giant, eye-like orb floating in the distance. One may conclude that the soldier is an embodiment of Jesus carrying the cross, a literal soldier of God (in this case, the orb), sent to the girl in order to test her faith. In the bible, god sends his disciples a series of challenges to prove their devotion.
A more critical view is that the man is simply a doubter, presenting a different viewpoint in the plot. Many claim that the soldier represents Oshii’s own inner conflict about religion and his eventually falling out. His consistent beratement of the girl’s blind hope towards the egg is relevant in contemporary society and the rise of secularism.
In the city, the girl hides from statues of armored soldiers, who scatter the abandoned streets. These troopers suddenly come to life at several points in the film, and hunt larger shadows of what appear to be fish. At first, the statues seem to be reincarnations of Roman soldiers, or even inquisitors, but the girl delivers one of the most important lines of the movie when the soldier asks the girl about the statues. “Even though the fish are not anywhere, still they chase after them.” From here, it can be deduced that the fish are another allegory of faith alongside the egg, and the statues the masses, who try to latch on to false idols.
Later in the film, the girl and the soldier take shelter in the girl’s home in a secluded building full of fossils. as rain falls throughout the wasteland. Here we get the longest segment of dialogue in the film from the soldier, who tells of his amnesia, and tells the biblical story of Noah’s Ark. His interpretation, however, presents a different ending. The dove Noah sends out never returns, as opposed to the traditional ending of the dove’s return. Noah and his passengers all aged and forgot about the civilization that once was, with all the animals “turning to stone.” It is then revealed that the girl’s home isn’t a building… it’s an ark.
This presents a challenge against divinity, as the soldier questions why god doesn’t reward his followers, while the girl remains true to her faith, devoted to the possibility that the egg was the reward for faith among the ruins of the ark. Another revelation shows that the girl hasn’t been drinking the water she scavenges. She saves them within her home. In Christianity, water can be seen as a symbol of purity, as it is involved in baptism, which many see as the purification of a person.
Oshii presents these paradoxes so that, as learners, we can form our own paths of interpretation on the virtues or fallacies of faith. His mission is to simply display an image. It is ours to interpret that image on our own. The egg could be a symbol, but it can also just be an ordinary egg.
This analysis is one of hundreds of possible interpretations a viewer could derive from “Angel’s Egg”. Not one possible analysis is wrong. Oshii himself has stated
that the viewer is always right, as opposed to the director, and that he doesn’t truly know the “true” meaning of the film, if there is one at all. “Angel’s Egg” is a metaphorical masterpiece unlike any film ever made, and may go down in history as one of animation’s greats.