Monday, July 18, 2016

The Wind Rises Film Review

by The Wanderer

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Hideaki Anno, Miori Takimoto
Series: Studio Ghibli
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Length: 126 Minutes

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In Search Of Cursed Dreams

Jiro Horikoshi has been fascinated with airplanes since his youth. His dreams of flying are crushed by his poor eyesight, and instead he decides to become the next best thing: an airplane designer.

Of all the Miyazaki films this one has by far to be the strangest, and I don't mean strange in the magical aspects that he's known for adding in all of his films. It's strange in that this is a historical film about World War Two aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi, a man who's aircraft designs were responsible for the deaths of thousands upon thousands of people.

Miyazaki takes a lot of liberty with this story, especially about Jiro's romantic life, which is completely fabricated. It's only added to the story to serve up its message about cursed dreams. As Jiro continues to pursue a romantic relationship with a woman who's terminally ill, he also begins to see the slow rise of the Nazi's (during a trip he takes to Germany) and the rise of Imperial Japan - signs of what is also likely to become of his aircraft designs. Both of these dreams are cursed, yet Jiro never gives up on them. In one of the most memorable scenes, Miyazaki illustrates this beautifully by having Jiro holding his love in one hand, while designing airplanes with his other.

As a dreamer, Jiro is constantly spacing out. And from the dreams we see Jiro usually talking to his inspiration Battista Caproni, a famous Italian airplane designer. Caproni's message sums up why he believes Jiro should design airplanes:
"But remember this, Japanese boy... airplanes are not tools for war. They are not for making money. Airplanes are beautiful dreams. Engineers turn dreams into reality."
Miyazaki will later take the approach that if Jiro doesn't design airplanes someone else well. This is probably true, but who could say for sure - especially when it comes to specifics? Either way the film is trying to make a very sympathetic story out of someone who's "chosen" career path doesn't give you a lot to sympathize with. It doesn't help that Jiro spends a lot of his time strolling around the film in what appears to be a state of complete oblivion.

I appreciate the directors willingness to attack subject matter that is difficult to approach. But the key issue I had with The Wind Rises is the lack of emotional connection I felt with both Jiro's relationship to his career and to his love. I've never felt such a great disconnect between myself and any of Miyazaki's characters, but this time I did. A lot of that probably has to do with the controversial subjects being discussed, and a lot of it probably has to do with my personal intolerance of willful ignorance - of which Jiro seems to display no shortage of. Or perhaps and more cynically still Miyazaki has lost a lot of his passion. Look no further than this quote by Miyazaki towards the end of the film The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a documentary about Studio Ghibli during the time it was making The Wind Rises:
"There was a time when we both had passion for our work. And I'm really glad we had that. We gave it everything we had. Everything."
This is Hayao Miyazaki's last film (unless he decides to come out of retirement again). It strikes me as his most personal, as the cursed dream of being an airplane designer is frequently compared to the cursed dream of being an artist, which is something I can definitely relate to. Stylistically it reminds me of Porco Rosso, except there's no flying pigs. Overall it's definitely a movie that leaves you scratching your head, not because of difficult subject matter, but because of the moral issues that it encompasses, and because it's the swan song to the world's greatest animator.

Score: 8.3

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