Outdoors over indoors, adventure over routine. Life is an excellent place.
Published February 12th 2014
A film to inspire the living of life
Hayao Miyazaki returns to the silver screen with possibly his final feature film, The Wind Rises. It is the story of a young man, Jiro Horikoshi, living in the tumultuous times from the 1920's, then on through the Taisho and Showa eras of Japan.
Continuing Miyazaki's fascination with flight and flying, Jiro, brought to life by voice actor Hideaki Anno, dreams of growing up to be a pilot. These dreams are dashed however by his near-sightedness and instead he pursues a career as an airplane designer for a major Japanese manufacturer, harbouring new dreams of designing his own perfect airplane.
In true Miyazaki style that one has come to appreciate and hope for over the years, the film does not follow any standard forms of prose. Rather than focusing on the trivial nature of daily life and the technical aspects of work in aviation technology, the films cuts in and out of scenes and jumps large time gaps, creating a biography of Jiro that explores the wonders of life and suffering.
Throughout the film, Italian airplane creator Gianni Caproni shares dreams with Jiro, offering guidance and voicing Jiro's thoughts. On more than one occasion Jiro is asked by Caproni, 'are you living your life to the full'? While a question used to form the film, there is a deeper sense of Miyazaki asking this directly to us the audience. Jiro is inspired to leave behind his dreams of becoming a pilot, impossible due to his eyesight, and pursue a career and life in a field of work that satisfies both his interest and capabilities. As any one of us knows, it is a hard balance to find. Miyazaki seems to be reminding us that there is always time to take a look at our lives and check that we are indeed living to the fullest.
The film spans a time of much suffering in Japanese history; the 1932 Kanto earthquake that tore Tokyo apart, wartime poverty and fear, the great depression and a half century of widespread tuberculosis. Jiro is surrounded by these hardships but manages to stay his course, following his dreams amongst the chaos of life. Hideaki Anno was personally invited by Miyazaki to work as a voice actor in this film, and he represents Jiro magnificently. An unassuming but confident character, Anno reportedly felt he had enough in common with Jiro that he used his own standard voice and self.
From the opening scene it is clear that this is a Studio Ghibli film. The artwork and atmosphere reflect previous films, the first frames throwing me straight back to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Composer Joe Hisaishi returns to work with Mizayaki again, filling out the film as a real Studio Ghibli work. The music, while suited to and written for the film, has an ambiance that has been present through many of Miyazaki's films.
The jumps in the story are quite dramatic, the narrative changing abruptly a few times during the film. While confusing at first it soon becomes clear that the point of the film is not to tell a story from any one point, but to paint a picture of the characters' lives; to portray people as they are, in life and in love.
The tagline for the film, 'we must live' is a throwback once again to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Turned in to a graphic novel, the final words of the Nausicaa series are 'we must live'. In The Wind Rises the people of Japan are struggling to survive in the face of adversity. The problems faced by the Japanese of this era ring true through to the modern day. Economic instability, political turmoil and the greatest earthquakes of Japan's history are represented both in this film and the modern day. 'We must live' is an affirmation of Miyazaki's call to all people to live to their fullest, no matter what the sufferings or pleasures lie ahead, there is never reason to waste a day. The Wind Rises is a reminder of this to all of us.