Inside Out: emotions show their true colors


Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out (2015) is back in Leipzig cinemas, now as part of the KINO FINO festival that usually falls during school breaks. Definitely worth taking your kids to, if you have any, or just going yourself. It’s open to everyone.

Pete Docter co-wrote and directed the highly insightful, delicate and creative story soon to be on tap at the festival, which is not surprising. He’s a common denominator in some of the best animated scripts of our generation: Toy Story (1995), Monsters, Inc. (2001), WALL·E (2008), and Up (2009).

Docter explains that in Inside Out, the protagonist, prepubescent Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) is also the setting of the movie. Much of the action in the animated film involves what’s happening inside her head, where emotions become characters: Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Fear (Bill Hader).

Among the questions Inside Out poses is whether we can control our emotions or are mostly controlled by them.

There seems to be a constant battle between free will and (pre)determination. Fortunately, the emotions in the film are benign. Although sometimes confused and misguided, they always try to act in Riley’s best interest, to keep her internal world in balance and ensure her survival.

The seven deadly sins do not make an appearance – perhaps in the sequel, if there is one?

Besides its entertainment value, the movie is both an existential and psychological exploration by Docter himself. He drew from his own difficult prepubescent days and his daughter’s growing up process in coming up with the story. He wanted to illustrate, give tangible life to what emotions actually feel like, with colors, explosions, auras, physical movements.

Let’s see how many metaphors you can spot playing out in the film.

These elements can help both children and adults visualize and understand what upheavals can do to a transitioning child’s brain, and open a door for dialogue.

In the movie, Riley’s emotions start going haywire when her parents uproot her from their expansive, idyllic Minnesota turf to crowded, hipster San Francisco (where they serve pizza with broccoli), for a new job. Her memories are marbles, and she starts to lose them. It’s up to the team of emotions to try to get them back.

They also need to make sure Riley still carries some of her childhood wonder and much of her foundation along as her personality changes and grows: the “islands” of Family, Friendship, Honesty, Silliness and Hockey (her most beloved hobby).

Unfortunately, some of Riley’s childhood memories and a really sweet friendship will perhaps forever be lost – but that’s just part of growing up.

Joy sees her dominance start to slip, giving more space for Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear to assume the controls. Their conflicts lead Joy and Sadness to become lost out in the wilderness of Riley’s head, as Depression – the invisible, unnamed monster – starts destroying all of Riley’s “islands.”

The emotions eventually see they do really need each other to function and maintain order. Only then can they defeat Depression as it tries to lead Riley into making a decision from which there is perhaps no turning back.

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A sort of mixture between Alice in Wonderland and Being John Malkovich (1999), whimsical Inside Out has lots of little details that will make you chuckle, and flashes of genius. It’s also got plenty of adventure to keep the kids entertained.

Catch Inside Out at Cineding on Saturday, 4 Feb, at 2 p.m. As usual with KINO FINO, it will be followed by a fun, interactive workshop on the language and concepts from the film.

KINO FINO is also featuring other films and activities this weekend. Visit their FB page and website for more info.

kino fino

Feature photo: Inside Out Emotion Garden at Epcot Center, 2015. By Jennifer Lynn; Wikimedia Commons.

A Global Studies doctoral degree holder and former newspaper reporter, avid eater, pseudo-philosopher and poet, occasion-propelled singer, semi-professional socializer, movie addict, Brazilian-American nomad. In this space, she will share some of her experiences and (mis)adventures regarding various topics, with special attention to social issues.

© Timothy Van Gardingen
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