Following last week’s screening of Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, TFS would like to draw an end to this exciting term with a film that is also set in WWII Japan. The Wind Rises, the latest, and unfortunately, the last film from Hayao Miyazaki, is an animation film that possesses the same magic as all the other Studio Ghibli productions.
However, unlike Miyazaki’s earlier films, The Wind Rises is an anomaly in terms of its realistic historical context, adult male protagonist, and focus on romance. Many viewers and critics find autobiographical hints in these transitions, which fittingly reflect Miyazaki’s conclusion of his own splendid and legendary career as a farewell piece.
The Wind Rises film is a fictional biography that recounts the dream of designing a plane, and the melancholic love story of Jiro Horikoshi (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt). While the former part is inspired by an engineer of the same name, who designed the Mitsubishi Zero fighter plane, the latter part is based on the writer Tatsuo Hori’s romance with his wife, both taking place during WWII Japan.
Considering Miyazaki’s pacifist and environmentalist views shown in his previous films, his decision to set the story during WWII, and his approach to the widely condemned Japanese nationalism and militarism, inevitably draws attention and criticism.
In The Wind Rises, the Japanese civilians and the society, including Jiro, are portrayed as separated and overshadowed by the war, without clear understanding of what it may bring. Individual aspirations, such as Jiro’s dream of building planes, are used to support the cannibalist, fascist regime. There are scenes where characters express concerns over Japan’s future and critique the oblivious mentality.
Miyazaki, seeking to problematize the binary representation of good and evil, presents Jiro as a persistent and sometimes naïve young man who devotes himself solely to his career. As an engineer, Jiro doesn’t directly encounter the war, and when his dream of designing the perfect plane confronts the violent nature of militarism, he seems confused and unsure of what to do, as any ordinary person would.
From Jiro’s conversations with the Italian engineer Caproni (voiced by Stanley Tucci) in his dreams (visualized by an enchanting montage throughout the film) we see the development of his aspiration, struggle, and disillusion from his childhood to the death of his wife Nahoko (voiced by Emily Blunt).
The Wind Rises is important not only because it offers an honest reflection of a subject that is controversial and too often forgotten, but also because the story is so wonderfully told, like Miyazaki’s previous films. With a beautifully animated world and a mesmerizing soundtrack (unique to all Studio Ghibli productions), The Wind Rises marks an important step in innovative creativity, and the end of an era for the legendary Hayao Miyazaki.
Please join us for a free public screening of Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, Wednesday Nov 26, 8pm @ Market Hall (140 Charlotte Street). All are welcome!