Malice@Doll (2000)
Directed by Keitarou Motonaga

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * ½

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In a post-apocalyptic world in which mankind is extinct, a robotic prostitute named Malice pointlessly wanders the halls of a ruined brothel searching for clients. When she begins leaking coolant from one of her eyes, she goes to have it fixed, but the repair robot instead rapes her with a mass of writhing tentacles. Having been transformed into a human being as a result of this treatment, Malice learns that with a kiss she can cause the other robots inhabiting the brothel to become organic, although with unpleasant consequences.

Keitarou Motonaga's Malice@Doll is a dark, repulsive, and memorable film.


While not strong narratively, the movie is visually impressive. Most of Malice@Doll has been created with computer generated animation, although several scenes incorporate cell animation. The director effectively uses these techniques to create a strange, artificial world disconnected from that of ordinary experience. For example, the robotic prostitutes, called dolls, rather than mimicking the appearance or motions of actual women, move like marionettes and resemble the female characters generally found in anime. Not only is their consequent stylization far more appealing visually than are the either stiff or realistic designs of most other computer animated characters in film, but, because it is so captivating, it helps to draw the viewer into their universe so that he is able to lose himself in his experience of watching the film.


What is more, this world the dolls inhabit, while dismal and dilapidated, is, at the same time, genuinely fascinating. The robotic prostitutes move through a ruinous, desolate landscape they share with various frightening machines, including the repair robot, a knife and saw wielding mechanical guard, and an eerily impassive administrator, all of whom infuse the film with a sense of sinister menace. After Malice's encounter with the repair robot, however, the gloomy, monotonous existence of all these machines changes dramatically and becomes even more weirdly affecting. The transformations of the dolls cause them to become horrific, mutilated monstrosities, like beings from a painting of hell by Bosch. At the same time, their dead, shabby world comes alive with a variety of dangers. Strange creatures, resembling fish, insects, worms, or the like, mingled with entrails, bones, and various mechanical parts, and reminiscent of Jan Svankmajer's more sinister puppets, eventually populate much of the film, evoking in the viewer a powerful sense of repulsion.


Admittedly, Malice@Doll's narrative exists largely to provide excuses for the film makers to present the viewer with these various images, but, nevertheless, it is not without interesting elements. The dolls themselves are limited beings and are never able to move beyond the constraints of their programming. Their limitations keep their world restricted, and Motonaga seems to imply that our own limitations do the same to us. Even when the dolls have become organic, their perspectives remain restricted. They are interested only in the sexual activities and functions for which they were designed, but they now suffer the consequences of their actions. The film's repulsive depictions of the world the organic dolls come to inhabit arouses in the viewer sympathy for them, and that sympathy, in turn, increases his revulsion, as horrors are made more horrific when suffered by a being for whom one sorrows. These feelings of horror and disgust are further fed by the viewer's inference that human beings are much the same and, consequently, suffer in the same ways the dolls do.


While Malice@Doll's narrative is generally uninspired, and the film's ending is very weak, the director does manage to use various potent images to create strong feelings of revulsion, and, to a lesser degree, of horror and compassion.

Review by Keith Allen

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