Ritual ★★★★½

It took me only 10 minutes into my first Hideaki Anno film to realize that I was in the hands of a genius who not just possesses incredible fluency in the language of the camera, but also someone who is so incredible in translating emotions to the audience that they feel almost as authentic and genuine as they would in first hand experiences. Ritual is a very heavy film which not only deals with the themes of mental illness and comments on the lead character’s distinct mental health, but it speaks as a commentary on the human condition and is also about film/visual media in general. From the opening scene, it’s clear that this is a film very personal to Anno, in fact I initially thought it was autobiographical only to realize that the film is actually written by the lead actress, Ayako Fujitani, which puts it into an entirely different perspective. One of the themes of the film is fiction vs reality. The film asks if its better to live in a lonely perfect reality, or a harsh reality with everyone else, also raising the question of why we retreat into our own worlds, and why we think life is worse than it truly is. It not only analyzes feelings of depression but how and why those feelings come about. Whether this distortion of reality is a symptom or a cause of depression, it’s unclear, but the film delves into every aspect of it.
The film is also filled with some brilliant symbolism, one of them being the constant images of the lead character either curled inside a bathtub, or her being in the middle of two trains, or the way her bed is designed. All these boundaries symbolizing her being trapped in this condition.
Ritual is an incredible film which is worthy of every praise it gets for handling such a heavy and tender subject matter with so much care.

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