Ghost in the Shell

Friday, May 3 - Saturday, May 4, 2024

“‘A stunning work of speculative fiction’ was how James Cameron, the director of Terminator and Aliens, described Mamoru Oshii’s wildly influential animation Ghost in the Shell on its original 1995 release. Almost two decades later, only the word ‘speculative’ rings false in that endorsement: today, you might call it prophetic.

“Oshii’s film, which was adapted from a manga series by Masamune Shirow, saw everything coming. In its near-future world, countries are like corporations under siege, whose protective walls are slowly being washed away by an ocean of communal data. Hackers are treated like terrorists, while programmers’ movements are restricted as part of a global arms embargo.

“Helping to keep the uneasy peace is Section 9, a team of government agents who include Motoko Kusanagi: a cyborg who can plug herself into the data-sea via four jack ports in the nape of her neck. (Futuristic as The Matrix may have looked to western audiences in 1999, the Wachowskis were playing catch-up.)

“We never find out which country Section 9 is defending, although in a sense, it doesn’t matter. The city where Kusanagi works, which Oshii modelled on Hong Kong of the 1990s, is as vividly and plausibly realised as the Los Angeles of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. It doesn’t look like anywhere, so much as a seam-bursting fusion of everywhere.

“We follow Kusanagi on her hunt for The Puppet Master, a hacker who can access the ‘ghosts’, or souls, of ordinary citizens and carry out cyber-crimes by proxy. Now entirely synthetic, her original human body replaced and improved on piece by piece, Kusanagi is unsure whether her ghost still lingers in her man-made form: in the opening credits, her cybernetic form is assembled in a factory, and the haunting temple chant on the soundtrack makes the process look like a religious rite.

“There are gripping chases and balletic combat scenes, painstakingly realised by Oshii’s animators, but the mood is mostly cold and melancholic, as Kusanagi broods over the fleshly implications of living in a world of data.

“In the film’s centrepiece scene – one of the single greatest animated sequences ever created – Kusanagi wanders through the nameless city, while the people around her make their way silently from place to place, hypnotised by advertising, defeated by the rain. Is she still human? Are they? This is a work of profound and melancholic beauty; every bit as essential in the 21st century as it was in the 20th.” – The Telegraph

Previously screened as part of our Winter 2020 series, “Waverly Midnights: Hindsight is 2020s.”

  • Country England
  • Language In Japanese with English subtitles
  • Year 1995
  • Running Time 83 minutes
  • Distributor Lionsgate
  • Director Mamoru Oshii
  • Writer Shirow Masamune (based on the manga by), Kazunori Ito (screenplay)
  • Accessibility Assistive Listening, T-Coil

IFC Center does not generally provide advisories about subject matter or potentially triggering content in films, as sensitivities vary from person to person. In addition to the synopses, trailers and other links on our website, further information about content and age-appropriateness for specific films can be found on Common Sense Media, IMDb and as well as through general internet searches.