This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Luke’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
"The old men intend to force our hand..."
Unmatched in cinematic craft, profound use of allegory, and, for me, emotional/personal resonance. Anno’s attempt to “burn” his feelings into film for this imbued his nakedly honest rendering of a person's plunging into, journey through, and coming out on the other side of hell with an incredible level of catharsis. An extremely emotionally violent experience (which even extends to the form of the film itself), yet one that's ultimately rejuvenating like little else (fitting that Genesis = formation). The ridiculous artistic literacy on display here and awareness of all of the nuances of the inherently very vulnerable material being depicted, deconstructed, and reflected on allows Anno to actually answer questions that most stop at asking. Conveyed with an ocean of feeling - a reckoning with your pain/death and the pain/death of everyone around you while you’re still struggling to come to terms with just existing around other people, the consequences of intense self-loathing on yourself and those you care about, the murderous indifference of higher-ups and soldiers, the agony of endless distortions you don't know how to respond to without running away, severely traumatized and bewildered teenagers undergoing a gruesome, reality-shattering apocalypse (spiraling from the internal to a cosmic rupture and back again) and experiencing a rebirth. After the ghoulish SEELE organization is dealt with, Shinji and Asuka can choose, and because the weight of living with trauma and the human condition itself is presented in such a fully understanding, mature way, the decision to live is earned and felt with an unparalleled gravity.
I'd of course be crazy to expect this film could hit everyone who watches it the same way it hit me, but I firmly see it as a miracle that this exists. It's life-affirming for me in a way very ltitle else is, and reaches, in every way and to an absolutely overwhelming extent, the pinnacle of what I feel art is there for.
True acceptance is an almost deceptively simple concept, but it's also a "big" one in that it can't be properly learned or applied without changing practically everything about the way one suffering from mental anguish perceives and interacts with themselves and the world. You can never get around the fact that letting down your defenses in order to really love leaves you open to being really hurt. Acknowledging this in itself might hurt. But you do need each other. Anno appears to understand better than anyone that the pain inflicted on us can just cause so much paralyzing fear (let alone when you're also being taken advantage of by powers much greater than you), leading to coping mechanisms that are always, on some level, destructive.
I’ll never get over the idea of the Absolute Terror Field.
Asuka’s (my favorite fictional character, and absolutely the most important part of the whole thing) will to live bringing her to reject her catatonic state of depression and panic and aggressively fight back against the “Mass Produced Evas”, only to have her soaring triumph ripped away from her as she's literally skewered and ripped apart by these horrifying monsters, that turn out to be, of course, essentially impossible to put down, is the single most viscerally affecting stretch for me in fiction.
With divine intervention imminent, Gendo's narcissism finally comes to an end. No better, more substantial use of music in film than "Komm, Susser Tod".
The callbacks to other master filmmakers (most notably Brakhage, Godard), the immeasurably brilliant cutting, the imagery - the use of color alone - what could I say that would actually do any of it justice? If it hits you anywhere near the way it hits me, you’ll understand, and the limitations of language won’t matter. “The film is the talking,” to paraphrase Lynch, and I’m not sure how that quote could possibly apply to anything more than this. I can say it's soul-searing, clarifying, and that it makes me feel...better (...? How can I ever properly articulate something like that?), walking away from it. Sometimes, I get a sense it's probably really just wisest to not say anything. Still, I'd like to add my reading of the brilliant last line, "disgusting" -
- An observation on the world we inhabit, both externally and internally (the former likely especially pronounced in the forefront of Asuka's mind given how brutally she was killed).
- A response to Shinji finally really touching her ("why won't he hold me?") through, of all things, a strangulation.
- A jab at Shinji's emotional breakdown ("aren't you a man?!").
- An acknowledgement of what he did while she was in the hospital.
- The realization that it took an apocalypse for him to finally be completely emotionally open in front of her, and, at the same time, that it took that much for her to understand why that was the case.