The Wind Rises

Japanese animation

The Wind Rises received award nominations, including for the Golden Globe for Best foreign Language film. It is the final film of celebrated animator, Hauao Miyazaki, noted to such films as Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponette by the Sea.

This film is quite different from his previous films which led the audience into worlds of fantasy and magic, human beings but also strange animals, immersed in the Japanese countryside and the seaside, but accessible to Western audiences (and mostly dubbed by American actors of some note for the international release).

This time the focus is on the human, especially a young boy, Jiro, who is fascinated by planes. It is the 1920s, the era of development of aircraft, the beginnings of commercial aviation, and the design of planes which could be used in warfare.

It is somewhat disconcerting for a Western audience to watch this film, the story of a young man who contributed to Mitsubishi’s development of planes that were used in World War II, confronting the Allies, contributing to the kamikaze ethos of the Japanese pilots, and contributing to many deaths. However, it is a film which takes the Japanese audience back into its past, an audience sometimes reluctant to consider the aspects of World War II, like this, and highlights the ambiguity of attitudes of the period and later.

Jiro goes to the University, but in a very dramatic sequence, he experiences the great fire of 1923. It must be said that the animation for the sequences is most impressive, far from the world of fantasies, rather grim pictures of the extent of the fire, the population and their terror, Jiro and his rescue of two young women from the fire.

They search for him but do not find him – yet, after a long search, he is found in the latter part of the film, which forms the basis of a romantic story, complicated by the fact that the young woman that Jiro loves is suffering from tuberculosis and has to stay in a sanatorium.

The film also introduces the Russians and has subplots indicating the espionage network of the 1930s.

Jiro is an engaging hero, something of a nerd of his time, lost in his books, in his imagination and world of design, bespectacled. His love for the young woman changes his life – and gives something of a moral to the film where people design planes that can be used as weapons and instruments of war whereas their motivation is for peaceful and profitable use, and the realisation that love is the most important experience.

- Peter Malone, ACOFB

Japan, 2013, Rated PG (Mild Themes). Directed by Hayao Miyazaki. 126 minutes.

The Wind Rises

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