I really should have read the manga or watched the series Revolutionary Girl Utena first, but, frankly, I wanted to find out the context of Utena transmogrifying into a car at the end of the movie. I am not sure that I succeeded, as I had to follow the plot summary on Wikipedia in order to get anything out of the series of events, but it was a wild ride nonetheless.
Utena’s Adolescence was not a particularly comprehensible introduction to the story. Nevertheless, I loved it. I love the way that the setting, Ohtori Academy, apparently exists on a series of endlessly moving platforms, gliding slowly through the sky, connected by infinite elevators and staircases. I love that the scale of the architecture makes all the characters seem both insignificant and caught in a labyrinth. I love that wind comes up out of nowhere and starts making Utena and Anthy’s hair seethe dramatically whenever the emotional pitch heightens. I love that endless gardens of red roses create showers of petals streaming down or eruptions of petals flying upward as punctuation to nearly every scene. I love that the reliance on slow pans through a scene give the film a hallucinogenic sense. I love that water [rain, fountains, car wash] appears whenever a character transforms or moves from one world to another. I actually even love that Utena turns into a car at the end, and Anthy drives her away from the dream world, and the film ends with Utena human again, entwined with Anthy, both of them naked, speeding through a grey wasteland on the bare chassis of the car that Utena used to be [?!], their hair seething in heightened drama. Clearly everyone who worked on this film was enjoying themselves immensely and carefully crafting every single element to emulate the lacunae, logic, and layers of an engrossing dream. Primarily I appreciate this movie for successfully creating the seductive, immersive, vaguely sinister atmosphere of a dream, and the fact that it focuses on two young women, Utena and Anthy, struggling against the toxic bonds of heteronormative institutions, makes it much more interesting than if the main characters were some hetero couple.
I can definitely dig the interpretation, mentioned in the Wikipedia article, that this movie takes place in the land of the dead…or, alternatively, all inside Utena’s head [or maybe Anthy’s].