So this week I was looking forward to seeing the new Studio Ghibli The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, a movie I have been waiting to since it’s scheduled release two years ago….However, when I arrived on the day of its release I found to my horror that the projector wasn’t working in my favourite cinema and it couldn’t be shown…what happened next will portray why it is my favourite cinema. So, I just found out about the projector, and I was upset about as much as finding out that the ‘Fat Jolly’ man that visits and gives you presents wasn’t actually real….truly heartbreaking. A quick as the words had left the lady who worked there’s mouth, she disappeared from behind the box office and appeared with free passes to see it another time. So, I got free passes to see the movie I wanted to see! And it’s not like had already bought tickets, I’d didn’t even get that far! So after the initial disappointed left..I took my hat off and saluted. That’s why the Lighthouse Cinema in Dublin is one of my favourites!! Talk about customer care!!
This lead me to this weeks movie, The Wind Rises. The synopsis goes like this; the story is about a highly fictionalised biography of aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi. Jiro grows up with a fascination with aeroplanes. Realising that he would never be a plot due to his need to wear glasses he goes on to study aeronautical engineering and joins Mitsubishi in 1927 to designs planes. The Wind Rises tells the tale of how Jiro dreams to build beautiful planes…and in true Studio Ghibli style he does this with actual weird hallucinogenic dreams, were he actually visualizes his planes before he builds them. With every Ghibli movie the true focus of the film has a romantic core. Here it is split into two parts; the first, is your basic love story, the second, is historical. As I said previous, Jiro joins Mitsubishi in 1927, just at the time when the main majority of plane building was for the army. The Wind Rises tells the tale of how Jiro is romantic about engineering (going on to build the A6M1 fighter, which is also known as Zero during World War II), but is torn by the fact that it is being used to kill.
The Wind Rises was written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, who arguably is one if not thee the most influential animation directors (probably battling it out with John Lasseter). Miyazaki probably deserves a ‘hat tip’ more-so due to his resistance of revolution of the medium that Lasseter and Pixar brought. Miyazaki’s movies are delivers such fine detail frame after frame, from lovingly fashioned scenes filled with stormcloud-suffuse fantasies to bizarrely filled menageries….and here again, Miyazaki doesn’t disappoint. Miyazaki is the master of blending numerous mythologies with hard-hitting issues such as environmentalism or pacifism, creating a coherent and recognisable output that is cultural transcending.
The director himself describes the film himself as a tribute to aeronautical engineer Jiro Horikoshi and poet-novelist Tatsuo Hori. The fictional narrative…I say fictional because it includes dream dialogues with Italian aeroplane designer Gianni Caproni on the wings of his creations…actually, that does sound like a fact…and interweaves it with Horikoshi’s real life efforts to build the Zero fighter. The title takes its name from Hori’s novel The Wind Has Risen. Miyazaki also draws from his own personal history; his father was the director of the Miyazaki Airplane company, which manufactured parts for the Zero fighter; and his mother is portrayed as Nahoko…if you watch the movie you will understand what I mean in the latter half of the movie, without spoiling anything. So in-actuality, the movie is also a tribute to his own parents and his own childhood, considering the fact he was born 1941, and the final violent intakes of World War II.
The historical context does create fascinating tension, coming from someone with a Western view of things. We are essentially rooting for the guy who invented a death machine used on the behalf of an oppressive regime… pinch of salt moment? Possibly…
Miyazaki creates heavenly scenes were Jiro dances around in the clouds of his subconscious with machines that would bring hell upon the new world…actually when you put it like that….
Again Miyazaki deals with this masterfully. For instance, during a seminar at Mitsubishi, Jiro sighs that his Zero prototype’s weight problem could be easily solved by removing the guns. “Airplanes are beautiful dreams, “ but they have become “cursed dreams”. Jiro humbly observes how his country is making the world the enemy stating: “Japan will blow up”. With that in mind, The Wind Rises won’t get the love in the West as some of the other Studio Ghibli films. Yet it shouldn’t be overlooked for its charm alone.
As if the romantic plot of taking something beautiful and changing it for war wasn’t heartbreaking enough…it also saddens me that The Wind Rises, Miyazaki’s 11th feature would be his final…probably the most heartbreaking plot twist… although the dream sequence with Caproni stating that he is retiring, “This is my last flight…Artists are only creative for ten years…”, a cheekily tearjerking pun from Miyazaki.
If we lived in the perfect world Miyazaki wish for where planes are just things of engineering beauty and not used for war, maybe animation directors would get recognition for just being directors. Instead of this film hierarchy looking down on animation, and ghettoising it you will. If this was the case Miyazaki would easily rank among the world’s greatest living directors, if it wasn’t animation’s war with the word ‘genre’. So if you aren’t familiar with any Hayao Miyazaki’s work, do a Star Wars on them..and by that I mean watch the last in the series first and work your way back…its worth it!!
The Wind Rises is a stunning farewell to a truly imaginative director and writer, and more importantly…a master of film, Hayao Miyazaki.