Pinocchio 964, a.k.a. Screams of Blasphemy (1992)

This might not have been the best movie for someone like me to watch. I say that because I typically do not like racket, or cacophony, or din (thank you GRE!) especially in music. I can’t stand the sound of endless clashing cymbals or frantic guitar leads (I’m thinking of heavy metal riffs here). And, as the title suggests, there’s a lot of screaming in this film. There’s also a lot of incessant moaning and grunting, usually not associated with sex acts, but rather with methods of communication.

What’s clear in this film is that there is a “reprogrammed”  or brainwashed sex slave who has been let loose into the world. He runs into a girl, Himiko, who apparently has problems too. She is making a map of the world around her so she can find her way around easily. She apparently has amnesia.  She drags him back to her subterranean “apartment” (she’s really a squatter in the basement of a building) and tries to teach him to talk. She discovers a tattoo that says “Pinocchio 964” on his back and so she figures his name is Pinocchio. She tries to teach him to be normal.

Eventually they have sex. He is a sex slave and is apparently wired that way. The film description says he’s a “lobotomized, cybernetic sex bot” but in the film I failed to see any proof of the cybernetic bot part other than the basic concept of brainwashing/reprogramming.  But still, this film is labelled Cyberpunk.  It’s Japanese-weird, if that’s a genre, so I guess that counts as Cyberpunk….;)  Well, when they have sex, pretty much all hell breaks loose because Himiko goes way past bonkers.  Pinocchio also goes through some sort of very bizarre Blob-esque transformation with tentacles of slimy ooze (reminded me of Japanese horror-porn with the always incredibly long gellatinous phallus chasing people) that he is stuck to the floor with. The metaphor is pretty clear here. At some point, Himiko truly snaps because she runs around throwing up LARGE quantities of what is clearly oatmeal or rice but is, from what I can gather, a metaphor for male ejaculate.  So both of them have a similar experience associated with this substance, from their different perspectives.

Himiko, after purging herself to infinity and beyond, goes off to the local hardware store and picks up a cart full of supplies that she uses in a very sinister way. She takes Pinocchio out to the junk yard and shackles him into these metal neck, arm and leg braces and then welds him shut so he’s permanently “in the stocks,” so to speak. Worse, she chains him to a huge weight that he then has to drag around. 

She basically tricks him and now has control over him.  We must stop at this point to consider what just happened. 

Himiko’s trauma was clearly realized when she had sex, willingly I might add, with Pinocchio. But there was something in her past that she had been blocking out that was then violently reopened with that act. It sent her into insanity. I’m guessing she was sexually abused in some way.  And if we consider Pinocchio, his whole life consisted of sexual abuse because his only function in life was to be a sex slave; he had no autonomy, no agency. When people are sexually abused, they are stripped of their autonomy for sure. So both of these characters are bound by their programming in their various ways: Himiko by her mysterious past, Pinocchio by his programmed present.

It seemed pretty clear that Himiko was reacting to her earlier abuse by enslaving Pinocchio and taking back that autonomy and agency she had lost.  But it was a VIOLENT retaking. It was unethical to the n’th degree. But it does seem to coincide with the cycle of abuse that is perpetuated when people are abused: they in turn abuse others some percentage of the time. It is sad, but true.  But just because Pinocchio seemed mentally incapable of functioning in the real world due to his “cybernetic” reprogramming, there were glimpses that he still retained some of his former self/mind because at some point (before Himiko chained him up) he was actually talking, and asking “What is happening to me?” and “Why is this happening to me?” and “Help me.” Things like that. 

But by the end, it became a real face-off of dueling insanities because Pinocchio eventually broke free of his weight, killed a few people along the way (including his creator and the creator’s secretary) and in a bizarre twist, he and Himiko morphed.

It’s hard to say exactly what was going on with all of this because as a non-Japanese speaking viewer, I can’t rely on the subtitles for all the subtext or cultural references.  You can’t even rely on subtitles to be accurate translations of the dialogue.

But, by the end, it seems to me that this film was about how we abuse each other, and the extent to which we’ll go to hold power over others and exploit them. But, it’s also about the power of the human will to overcome such obstacles. In Himiko’s case, she had forgotten about her past abuse, so her own mind had protected her. In Pinocchio’s case, his mind was trying to peek through to tell him that something bad had happened to him. And that’s why he was going insane: because he didn’t have the capacity to right the wrong done to his mind. All he could do was kill the people who did it, and hope that eventually his mind would heal.

The fact that Himiko was making a map of her surroundings was an indicator of the cyberpunkish/postmodern theme, I suppose. With the map, she would no longer need the territory, as Baudrillard would tell you. But, if we translate that into the frame of the mind, there can be dire consequences when the map of the mind replaces the territory of the mind.  Pinocchio’s mind was “remapped” and the territory of his Self was almost nearly gone, all so that he would be a sex slave and could be sold to rich old horny ladies. And with Himiko, her memory had wiped the mental slate clean in order to protect her from the atrocities of her past abuse, and the new map of nothingness was the only thing keeping her sane.

So what is this telling us? Leave the territory intact and natural. Don’t disturb the delicate balance of the mind. Don’t abuse and exploit. A powerful message, really, told in an intense manner. Like I said at the beginning, the incessant screaming and moaning throughout the film really fill the viewer with a sense of high anxiety while watching this.  I suppose we’re supposed to internalize this and react in a way that keeps us from perpetuating such violence and abuse on others. To watch someone enslaving someone who’s already enslaved by their mind is dreadful. But things like that happen every day, in every culture.

Sadly, if we trust Baudrillard, at the moment the map is made, the territory is obliterated. So we can never return. We must stay in insanity. There’s no more Shire as you knew it, Mr. Frodo!

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