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Movie Review – The Wind Rises by Hayao Miyazaki

March 11, 2014

The Wind Rises-Kaze Tachinu

Sunday afternoon I saw The Wind Rises (Taze Kachino – Japanese title) – the film written and directed by Japan’s master of animation Hayao Miyazaki.

I first read about this film last fall and have eagerly awaited its release. It was well worth the wait.

Artistically, it was more than I expected. The animation is astounding. The detail in every frame is perfection. I smiled to myself when I saw that the animators put bokeh in shots of the bright, sun-filled sky. That’s inspired work. And one “overhead shot” of a mass of people took my breath away for its level of detail.

I was surprised, too, by the perfect sound effects, something I wouldn’t have expected to be so conscious of in a film that is primarily a visual masterpiece.

The story is very moving from an ethical standpoint. It is also quite emotional in terms of the characters’ personal lives.

After seeing the movie, I googled around and read that it is “highly fictionalized” which sent me on a search of the real-life story of the movie’s primary character, Jiro Horikoshi, who was an aeronautical engineer during WWII.

While the details of Horikoshi’s professional career seem accurate in the film, the personal story is probably not true at all. In fact, the details of Horikoshi’s private life, as presented in the movie, have been loosely fabricated from the book The Wind Has Risen by Hori Tatsuo (written in 1937-38).

While I think the film is well worth seeing, I would hope that viewers understand that it is woven from two distinct sources (the professional life of Jiro Horikoshi and the book The Wind Has Risen) that did not intersect in the real life of Jiro Horikoshi. I find it distracting to feel the need to make this clarification – distracting from the amazing artistic achievement of this film. But I do think people need to understand that the storyline presented of Jiro Horikoshi’s personal life is not to be considered true, though it’s a wonderful love story. (I’m refraining from saying more about this as I don’t want to spoil the movie for you.)

As stunning as this film is, I found great sorrow in it. While Miyazaki is presenting a pacifist’s point of view, the tragedy of war, in this case WWII, permeates the story. The juxtaposition of the sparkling and bright peacetime animation frames and the dark war images is an astounding visual achievement in the context of one film. It’s very effective. So, too, is the movie’s presentation of the young Horikoshi’s dream of creating a beautiful flying machine and then he, as an adult, realizing that the product of all his dreams and work, of his creative genius, is a war plane that is reproduced more than 10,000 times and that is used for kamikaze missions.

The Wind Rises is not likely to be in theaters long. So, hurry to see it now, especially as its creator, 73 year-old Hayao Miyazaki claims this will be his last film.

Though The Wind Rises is an animated film and it’s rated PG-13, it’s not really a children’s movie. Also, rather than subtitles, Disney was commissioned to add English voice-over to the film. They’ve done such a good job with this, you wouldn’t know that the film was originally in Japanese.

If this is Miyazaki’s swan song, he’s leaving a strong and simple message to us:

Create beauty and live in peace.

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