Read Hideo Kojima's Love Letter to 'La La Land'

'Metal Gear' creator shares his love of Damien Chazelle's romantic musical comedy in this first of a series of short essays

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in 'La La Land' Credit: Lionsgate

Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima is widely regarded as one of the true video game auteurs. Though the 53-year-old is most closely associated with his work leading the production of some of the most beloved single player narrative games of the past 30 years, his original ambition, prior to joining Konami in 1986, was to become a movie director. His passion for film has long informed his work in games, leading most recently to a collaboration with director Guillermo del Toro. 

Initially, the pair had been working on a reboot of Konami's survival horror game Silent Hill before he parted ways with the publisher in 2015 and the game was cancelled. Last year, it was revealed that the pair were collaborating again, this time on Kojima's new game for Sony Interactive Entertainment, Death Stranding.

Though Kojima is very secretive regarding specific details on Death Stranding, he is eager to share his views on culture. We spoke with him recently about what drives him as an artist, and he asked us if we'd be open to him sharing his observations directly in a series of short essays.

After La La Land scored a record seven wins at the 74th Annual Golden Globes Awards on January 8, Kojima told us that he'd like to kick things off by discussing the romantic musical comedy.

Read Kojima's essay below:

"Who are we? And, you know, what is Hollywood anyway? It's just a bunch of people from other places." These words from actress Meryl Streep after accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 74th Annual Golden Globe Awards were an appeal to the importance and the power of the arts – the power of movies to fight back against real violence in the world. "Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners," she said, "and if we kick them all out, you'll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts."

But what is the power that movies have over us? What power do dreams have? I think I found the answer in La La Land.

The movie opens with an energetic musical scene that evokes the bustle of the LA freeway, and its magic had me immediately captivated thanks to its joyous music and dazzling colors. These vibrant and extravagant early scenes are a powerful reminder of the golden age of post-WWII musicals like An American in Paris, Singing in the Rain or The Band Wagon.

Modern Hollywood movies rarely include the kinds of scene compositions that really shine here. Immediately it demonstrates that this isn't our Los Angeles, but instead is a whimsical dreamland where movie fantasies and the American dream live hand in hand. It's here where an aspiring jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and a hopeful actress (Emma Stone) meet, fall in love and chase their dreams together. It’s a classic, bittersweet and heart-swelling tale that I think anyone can relate to.

La La Land shows us both the sweet and bitter sides of both creating and viewing a movie as inhabitants in our modern world, of having a dream and making it a reality.

This dreamland vision of LA in the movie is depicted passing through four distinct seasons, and as time passes, the two lovers grow closer, encounter hardship, and gradually edge closer and closer to achieving their dreams. With each step toward their goals though, the vibrant colors of the fantasy world steadily fade away. As the dream becomes reality, the real LA seeps in. The fading colors of the world communicate that dreams can't be made reality without sacrifice – but what does this leave? Just an innocuous reality? I really don’t think so, and I think that is the real message of the movie.

Viewing the two on their journey, the movie leads the audience to the realization that this is not actually a dreamland after all. In the end, we see Emma Stone’s character riding in a car as it leaves the freeway, and heads back into LA, and we're left to wonder what awaits her there.

Musicals – which I think are the embodiment of the Hollywood dream – began to fade out in the late 1960s. America was knee-deep in the Vietnam war, and classic cinema gave way to New Hollywood, but this change didn’t signify the end of movies all together. Although musicals are all but extinct, movies continue to show us new dreams. Had La La Land been a simple Hollywood golden age revival film that just touched on America’s ideological past, it may have passed me by, but it pulled me in because it zips along the highway of dreams and races through the real LA before heading off toward a new dream.

La La Land shows us both the sweet and bitter sides of both creating and viewing a movie as inhabitants in our modern world, of having a dream and making it a reality. That’s why there’s the urge to watch it again and again. It’s the story of an unflinching modern day dream that only a movie can portray.

This essay was translated from the original Japanese. It has been edited and condensed for clarity.