Everlasting Maternity: Angel’s Egg (Mamoru Oshii, 1985)

An apocalyptic pall hangs over an unnamed land and one girl lurches forward in the shadows. Her spaghetti hair is knotted and overtakes her frail body, tattered oversized clothing covers her alabaster flesh, and she’s hiding something. An oval of adoration. A piece of life in a land that has none. A future in a world devoid of such things. She continuously walks, seemingly reaching towards some sort of peace, cradling a singular egg that could be the only thing worth fighting for left in this world of overbearing darkness.

Mamoru Oshii’s Angel’s Egg is coloured by tragedy, and exists as a post World War II picture in the lens of Japan. The setting is never explicitly named, but something has been taken from wherever this ragged fairy tale is set. Elaborately painted backgrounds convey a world on the edge of total destruction. All that is left are fragments of nature and ghosts of buildings that once stood tall. Cracked ceramics and broken childhood toys are furniture. This sense of loss is so exquisitely manufactured through landscape imagery that as purely a reaction to the devastation caused by the atomic bombs this would be an undeniable example of anti-war cinema, but there is more present here than that. A maternal cinema that captures a primal need within some to give birth, in this case metaphorically, to a new world.

The Christian imagery is everywhere in this movie, and perhaps the strongest of these images is the idea of the virgin mother. Our lead character represents this idea, but a stronger idea is present in the simplicity of carrying a child and the potential for what this child could bring by existing. The unbound questions of possibilities of pregnancy or in this case bringing this egg to hatch. She adores this egg with everything in her, and it’s her only hope in a world that has torn itself apart with war and hatred. She is the only light that shines in this visual painting. Occasionally the reflection of her hair creates a halo effect. She is a mother, She is love, and she is god overseeing the last of humanity.

Is every mother a god in the sense that she gives life? Oshii’s film positions the girl as that figure. A bringer of life in a world that only sees a void. The machines and creations of men have killed the world so the purity of a girl as a representative figure of hope is evocative. A forward moving, abstract narrative calls upon a journey as she tries to keep this egg safe. She oversees the wreckage of the world, and she only grows closer to what it is that she’s carrying. The tragedy of Angel’s Egg is that everything passes, and men, even in worlds that don’t fully represent our own, will shatter everything that is beautiful.

She screams at the grave of the earth, and the tragedy that has been wrought. A mothers child is lost. A god weeps over her planet.

There is a devastating moment of clarity within my own personal cinema when she cradles her now flat stomach. That image is of pure grief, and perfectly illustrates in direct blunt imagery the hollowness of losing a potential child. In my own case, it is theoretical. Grieving over something never afforded to my body, with the lingering empty feeling of knowing this is for you, but not for you. I’ll never give birth. I am infertile. Viewing cinema within the personal creates an ache in my body when that image is presented in front of me. It is a mirror of my own need and desire for pregnancy, and ultimately grasping at nothing but loose cloth and things that will only exist in dream.