The man who changes the way we think about the Internet

As it turns out, Suzu spends her time as a popstar in the parallel world of “U”, a virtual reality that promises a fresh start and a fresh start, something extremely promising for a teenage girl who feels bad about herself. As an Internet Bell popstar (to be clear, spelled without an “e” as in the title, as Suzu’s name translates to “Bell” in English), she finds immediate viral fame, something that quickly brings her to life. contact with another famous – or rather, infamous – inhabitant of U: “The Beast”, with whom Suzu feels a mysterious kinship.

In some ways, Belle could be seen as a riff on our growing desire to occupy fully visualized virtual social spaces – as seen for example, with games like Fortnite and Animal Crossing: New Horizons acting as concert zones. or interviews, and allowing people the opportunity to mingle during the lockdown. But it’s also much more fundamentally about the whole nature of online communication and how it can facilitate both personal transformation and self-reflection.

“I think the fact that there is this other world where we can be another version of ourselves [helps to show] that we are not just what we show to society, “Hosoda told BBC Culture.” Belle and Suzu are so different they’re virtually different people, but in fact, they’re the same person. Sometimes we end up believing that we are only one side of ourselves, but in reality we have many dimensions. And to learn that and believe that it helps us to be freer. “

Hosoda’s fantasies of digital life

Hosoda’s directorial career began around the turn of the millennium, and as his filmography developed, parenthood and the lives of children clearly became his favorite themes. His previous film, Mirai from 2018, explores a father who becomes a stay-at-home parent for the first time. Prior to that, Wolf Children in 2015 and The Boy and the Beast in 2012 both saw single parents fearful of where their children’s independence will take them, as well as the influence they have in the shape of their lives. But alongside this focus on the family, a more specific interest that he repeatedly explored was the role the internet plays in the development of children today – something he tackled. for the first time in his very first feature film, 2000’s Digimon: The Film and returned in Summer Wars in 2009, about a high school student getting involved in an online world called Oz, and now Belle.

Indeed, this motif of children seeking advice and refuge in fantastic digital realms is perhaps the most striking element of his work – even in his films which do not explicitly deal with the internet like Mirai, where the tree The genealogy of the young protagonist is presented as a sort of traversable web space. His films often visually reflect the influence of digital culture by having one foot in and one foot out of reality – for example, while his characters may be designed with a sober and natural look, they very often act with overreacting. and caricatures. Thematically, the socialite typically collides with the afterlife as its young or adolescent protagonists navigate their rapidly changing lives doing something physically impossible – time traveling in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time and Mirai, being taken to another dimension in The Boy and the Beast, and stepping into virtual reality in Summer Wars and Belle.


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