After a long break, it is actually pretty difficult to get back into shape of summarising thoughts about the movies seen. I bet, in a couple of years’ time I will be looking at this review with blood in my eyes… But let’s get closer to the point.
I generally have mixed feelings towards Miyazaki’s movies: although I consider Spirited Away to be the absolute joy and pleasure to watch, I think that his other movies are a bit childish, a bit simple and plain. They usually don’t have several layers of meanings or controversial characters – staples in modern cinema. The new movie, The Wind Rises, did not disappoint in that regard in the slightest. It has all the essential qualities that I craved for in Miyazaki movies, bringing an absolute treat.
The movie follows the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II, his dreams and anxieties. We look at the most pivotal moments in his life: moving to Tokyo, joining the construction bureau, building the most iconic plane of all time. But the film is not a biography; far from it, it is a reflection on the questions of our path, our place in history and the way every man contributes, consciously or not, to the grand scheme of things. The name of the movie was not chosen lightly: it serves both as an allusion to the primary profession of Horikoshi, as well as a reminder about the poem it takes its name from, Le cimetière marin by Paul Valéry. In it, the poet dwells on topics of immortality, which gives away the underlying theme of the film.
With the complex topic and controversial themes raised (after all, Jiro Horikoshi built planes used against the Allied forces), Miyazaki manages to produce a highly intimate and delicate plot, which avoids being overly ambitious or too outspoken. It is a private view of a man, who tries to gauge his place in the history with the movie. It moves from realistic to dreamy to melancholic, and the underlying dramatic story provides a strong backdrop and linkage for all thoughts and dwellings of the author.
Animation and visual part were never a concern for Miyazaki’s movies, and this time they indeed keep up with the strong plot. Dream sequences are gorgeously drawn, the colours are pleasant to look at, the animation is soft and sceneries are spectacular. The earthquake, disintegration of the plane, dreams scenes are breath-taking, providing exactly the sort of visuals required for the story to be told with passion.
Miyazaki claimed that it was going to be his last movie – and thus he allowed himself to experiment – the movie is a clear departure from the usual Miyazaki’s narrative of coming of age and nature’s rebellion (I am oversimplifying, of course, but you get the idea). It is beautiful, sophisticated, multi-layered and dramatic. Even if you are not persuaded by beautiful visuals and powerful story, you must see the film at least to show respect to the unrivalled genius of Japanese animation.