I’m not sure if I’d call The Wind Rises the front runner for the best movie of the decade, but it certainly is one of the most beautiful animated films I’ve ever seen.
Miyazaki understands something every 12-year-old who’s built a model ship or model airplane understands. Weapons of mass destruction can be beautiful and poetic. Think of the Iowa class battleship, or the German Panther tank. So he’s made what might for lack of a better word be called an “animated poetic romance” about Jiro Horikoshi, the creator of the best fighter of World War II, the iconic “Zero.”
The Wind Rises is a nationalist film. Most of the film focuses on the beauty of the Japanese countryside, which we watch the film with a realization that it will eventually be destroyed by the United States. Think of an American film about the Second World War made up of a series of frames taken from Ansel Adams’ photographs, and you’ll get an idea of the aesthetic Miyazaki is going for.
Jiro himself isn’t a militarist or an arms merchant. He’s a poetic innocent who just wants to make a beautiful airplane. The fascist government of Japan in the 1930s is only alluded to obliquely. The secret police briefly investigate Jiro, then disappear after he becomes increasingly devoted to his dying fiancee. We never hear about Pearl Harbor but the earthquake in the first half of the film that burns Tokyo vividly foreshadows the firebombing of Tokyo and Hiroshima. Mr. Castorp, an obvious allusion to Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain seems to be a German anti-fascist. The character isn’t fully developed, but he is prophetic. In the end, both the Zero and his fiancee are gone, and Jiro must go on.
Note: I saw the Japanese version with subtitles, not the dubbed English version. No movie not a Kung Fu movie should be dubbed in any language. As bad as subtitles can be, they never spoil the aesthetic quality of the original language, which can often be beautiful, even if you don’t understand it.
The Wind Rises may well end up being the greatest film of this decade. It’s certainly the front-runner so far.
Much has been made of Miyazaki’s announcement this would be his final film, but it has the markers all over it; it’s what the French call a “testament film”. Like most testament films, it has the self-reflexive air of sentimental recollection. Of life seen from a broad overhead view. And in the case of a film so concerned with airplanes in many instances many times this is meant literally. It is suffused with a sense of death, or rather with a sense of a thin divide between life and and death metaphorically seen in dreams but where the feel of dreams and what we’re supposed to accept as the base level of reality is blurred; there is no strict life/dream duality. This isn’t, thank god, Inception.
We open with…
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