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Intertextuality, sex and the hollow life in Kore’eda Hirokazu’s Air Doll

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 16:26 authored by Barbara HartleyBarbara Hartley

Directed by Kore’eda Hirokazu (b. 1962, winner 2018 Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or), the 2009 film, Kūki ningyō (Air Doll), tells of a sex doll who comes to life. Once she acquires ‘a heart that I was not supposed to have’, the work moves through rom-com to Romeo and Juliet-esque tragedy. Although rated relatively lowly on reception websites, Air Doll is a complex reflection on the ‘hollow life’ created by hyper-capitalism and related issues including gender and class. The film is enhanced by Korean actor Bae Doona’s whimsical doll performance, while Mark Lee Ping-bing’s cinematic genius invokes the dreamy effect of In the Mood for Love. This article focuses on the film’s dense intertextual references which evoke both E. T. A. Hoffmann’s ‘Sandman’ and Freud’s ‘uncanny’ response. The doll’s CD rental store part-time job further permits Kore’eda to incorporate a tour de force series of other film references.


Publication title

Australasian Journal of Popular Culture








School of Humanities


Intellect Ltd

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Literature; Understanding Asia’s past; Other culture and society not elsewhere classified