The movie is filled with references to fantasy, philosophy and Zen and addresses aesthetic and moral questions. For example, the film begins with a quotation from Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam‘s Tomorrow’s Eve from 1886: “If our Gods and our hopes are nothing but scientific phenomena, then let us admit it must be said that our love is scientific as well.” Other numerous quotations in the film come from Buddha, Confucius, Descartes, the Old Testament, Meiji-era critic Saitō Ryokuu, Richard Dawkins, Max Weber,Jacob Grimm, Plato, John Milton, 14th century playwright Zeami Motokiyo, the Tridentine Mass, and Julien Offray de La Mettrie, French Enlightenment philosopher and author of “Man a Machine” (1748).
The characters and their names contain many allusions to other older works. For example, the “Hadaly” model robots refer to a human-like robot named Hadaly featured in Tomorrow’s Eve, also the book that popularized the word android. The company LOCUS SOLUS is named for the 1914 novel by Raymond Roussel, which also shares certain thematic elements with the film, such as a mansion containing tableaux vivants. The police forensic specialist, Haraway, is most likely named for Donna Haraway, feminist author of the Cyborg Manifesto. Haraway’s character is likely based on Susan Calvin from Asimov’s Robot series. TheRobot series is also referenced in the film’s androids as they comply with a modified version of Asimov’s Third Law of Robotics.
Dolls are also an important motif in Innocence; many have “spirits” of some sort, but at the same time are not quite human. They are based on the art of Hans Bellmer, a dollmaker famous for his disturbing, erotic ball-jointed female dolls. Bellmer’s name briefly appears in one scene on a book cover. As Oshii says, “They want to become fully human — but they can’t. That dilemma becomes unbearable for them. The humans who made them are to blame. They try to make a doll that is as human as possible — but they don’t think of the consequences.” Even the human or partly human characters move in doll-like ways, notes Oshii. Oshii also planned an exhibition to commemorate the film, the exhibition showcased several Japanese artists’ work of ball-jointed dolls.[when?]
The parade sequence is based on a religious procession and a temple in Taiwan.
On the overall message of the film the director said “This movie … concludes that all forms of life – humans, animals and robots – are equal. In this day and age when everything is uncertain, we should all think about what to value in life and how to coexist with others.”
There is a philosophical mood underlining the film. The characters often quote all kinds of literary and philosophical sources (as if they could mentally access a universal knowledge base à la wikipedia), and at one point there is a Zeami quote, translated as follows:
“Life and death come and go, like that of a puppet on a stage. When the string breaks, the puppet falls apart.”
Then an eery sequence shows a masked crowd throwing puppets into a huge fire. The burning of these puppets seems to be a ritual in an environment, where the borders between the organic and inorganic have blurred.
The slow motion of a killer robot being shot and disintegrating (in sequence):