The Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki (follow up post)

Earlier this week I posted about Hayao Miyazaki and the role that the environment plays in his works, and also the strength of his female heroines. Many of you lovely readers had wonderful comments and either asked about or recommended that I watch Miyazaki’s final film The Wind Rises.

Well, I watched it and I thought I’d put up a smattering of thoughts that I had about it. Overall, it was a lovely film though I don’t think it will be my new favourite (I leave that spot jostling between Nausicaa and Mononoke).

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I think, the first thing that I was really left with was the idea that this would be Miyazaki’s final film (so he claims anyway) and the overwhelming sense of finality I had when the movie finished. As with all fiction I think that this film is product of it’s context. Previous Miyazaki films were influenced by various tales, Japanese culture and a desire to embrace the environment and the capability and strengths of the individual heroes. This film, however, was coloured as a final act of creativity and the sense of fulfilment that the act of creation can have.

The hero, Jiro, dreams of creating beautiful airplanes. In his dreams he meets his idol Caproni (a famous Italian airplane designer) who advises and guides him throughout the story. Jiro is a unique guy, a genius in his own way that passes through the lives of others without much notice as he is so focussed on his own creations. This is hilariously shown through interactions with his younger sister, Kayo who is down-to-earth relentless and dreams of being a doctor. Miyazaki’s own personal history is realized more fully in this film. His father worked for an airplane manufacturer which made him wealthy in a time where many went without. Despite this, he remembers the fear of living through World War II, running from air raids and skies lit with the burning of Japan (Wiki). In his youth, while studying at university, Jiro (through happenstance) meets the love of his life Nahoko when she rescues his hat from the wind. He, then, rescues Nahoko and her servant when the train crashes, making sure they get home safely. Their lives cross paths a few times afterwards but it isn’t until after Jiro works for Mistubishi and has experienced some success and failure that he and Nahoko (now a painter), diagnosed with tuberculosis, unite.

Midway through the film Jiro meets Caproni in his dream and Caproni announces his retirement saying that:

“Artists are only creative for 10 years … we engineers are no different. Live your 10 years to the full.”

While, as evidences by Miyazaki himself, artists and inventors can continue living a varied life beyond 10 years however the film, by asserting this, is also asserting the quickness with which life and creativity float by in the wind. Jiro is a staunch pacifist, yet he (and the audience) can’t help but notice that his pursuit of inventing the best fighter plane will inevitably lead to their use as instruments of war. Is that contradiction a fault of the film, or of history and human nature? It certainly mirrors the doomed, yet beautiful and necessary, relationship between Jiro and Naohoko. The film, instead of apologizing for war and the evils of human nature, simply revels in the human’s capacity for the creative process and the beauty and need for creativity and love – despite the consequences. (SPOILERS!) Nahoko’s death aligns with Jiro’s success and ends the film on a bitter-sweet note. Jiro says he never could have completed his plane without Nahoko – and it is clear that Nahoko lived how she wanted to live right to the end.

Now, just a moment on Miyazaki’s preoccupation with flight.

In many of his films, if not all but Mononoke, flight and the discovery within oneself the capacity for flight is a major theme. The Wind Rises even by it’s very title evokes images of flight, and, more than many of the other (perhaps excepting Porco Rosso) is driven, very literally, by flight and the desire to fly. Actually, it’s kind of interesting to note that it is generally the male character who either already knows how to fly or has the machinations and drive to learn the mechanics and power of flight. the female character must learn to fly in her own way. This is, of course, not true of all cases (he’s just so darn complex), often the discoveries are quite even between the genders. But it got me to thinking…

Miyazaki has said in interviews that he is so attracted to the discovery of flight because it is something magical and scientific that will not be experienced again. This is also why he generally depicts early twentieth century flying machines – dirigibles, bi-planes etc… and magical modes of flight because they were just the beginning.

Well, what do you guys think of Miyazaki and his preoccupation with flight?