“The wind is rising...we must attempt to live!” ~ Paul Vareri
This is the quote which Hayao Miyazaki’s “The Wind Rises” opens up on and continues to live by during every frame of the film.
If there is one film studio which can give Pixar a run for its money, it would be Studio Ghibli. You may not have always heard of the name, but if you care about animated movies, then you’ve watched their films, which include “My Neighbor Totoro,” “The Grave Of The Fireflies,” “Princess Mononoke,” “Howl’s Moving Castle” and “Spirited Away.”
Their films, like Pixar, are able to reach a multitude of audiences, while entertaining people of all ages with ease. Their stories are timeless and the characters are relatable without resorting to cliche. The difference between Pixar and Ghibli though is that Pixar wishes to tell stories about particular characters and their adventures, while Ghibli focuses on the world within the film and builds their stories around it.
The mastermind behind most of the Studio Ghibli films is Hayao Miyazaki, who has said that his most recent film, “The Wind Rises,” will be his last film. I have my reservations to doubt Miyazaki, as this is the third time in his long career that he as announced retirement. He didn’t mean in the past, so can we really trust that he’ll keep to his word this time?
Well, if he does indeed retire after this film, he would be going out on the highest note possible. “The Wind Rises” ranks up there as one of the best films Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli has ever produced, as it presents an experience that is more mesmerizing and captivating than anything I’ve seen in a long time.
Jiro Horikoshi is a young Japanese boy who is absolutely fascinated with planes and aviation, even going as far as to buy an American plane magazine and translate it with a dictionary. However, due to his poor eyesight, he could never be a pilot. Jiro instead decides to build the most wonderful planes imaginable, dedicating his entire life to building his dream plane. With vivid dreams of discussing aviation with other world-renowned architects, like the Italian Caproni, Jiro has an interesting life ahead of him.
I avoided giving names of voice actors this time around, because in most places where “The Wind Rises” is playing, they are showing both the Disney-dubbed version with actors like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt, as well as the original Japanese version with English subtitles. I saw the dubbed version, but I’m tempted to see the subtitled version just to see if there are any differences.
I find it is best to watch a film as it was originally intended, by the film’s creators. So even if it is a foreign film, I feel that subtitles are the best way to go.
The best way to describe “The Wind Rises” is as an experience. It isn’t so much a movie as it is putting you in a state of mind. Films usually attempt to tell a story with conflict, rising action, falling action, a climax and revelations. There are rare instances where a movie puts the story to side and just lets the images speak for themselves.
“The Wind Rises” is akin to films like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Gravity” in that regard. Not as much about the characters as it is experiencing the wonders of flight in a poverty-stricken area like Japan.
There is a plot to film, but it takes its time to show just how wonderful planes and idea of flying can be. The dream sequences are the best example of this, as in each on Caproni has a new flying machine that he wishes to show to Jiro. They serve as his inspiration, but each device is bigger and more overwhelming than the last. From fighter planes, to a sea plane with three sets of wings to a cargo plane that can fit endless amounts of people.
The true visual spectacles come to the land itself. There is a scene fairly early on in which Tokyo is hit with an earthquake, and steadily the landscape is set ablaze. First it looks like nothing happened, then puffs of smoke appear in the distance, soon followed by huge flames. Later on, we see a barren city. It is breathtakingly haunting and a reminder that the earth could swallow us up at any moment.
If you’re not into that, the film has plenty more to offer. Scenes of watching the rain fall heavily on Jiro as it soaks through his umbrella stand out, because it leads to him finding a rainbow, something which he says he hasn’t seen in a long time. This sense of wonder becomes even more beautiful when we see Jiro’s planes burst through the clouds and glide along them with ease.
You really get a feel for the land of Japan and just what it feels like to live there. How difficult it is to be a plane architect when they’re twenty years behind everyone else. That the land is so fragile but the sky is so tempting that you wish you could reach up and touch it. Perhaps that is why Jiro wants to build planes.
Of course, an underlining point of the film is how the military wishes to use Jiro’s planes as weapons of war. It isn’t stated often, but it is in the back of Jiro’s mind. He says that he only wants to build marvelous planes and does not care how they are used, but we see that does indeed care. His initial plan is to build his crowning achievement so that it would be impossible to install guns on it.
His statement is laughed off by his coworkers.
“The Wind Rises” is based off of the life of Jiro Horikoshi, who created the design for the Japanese fighter jets used in WWII. War is lurking in the background of this film, and shapes the world in which Jiro lives in. He may not want to use his designs for war, but that won’t stop others from doing it.
This is what I mean by Studio Ghibli creating films around the world they create. You get a sense of exactly how this poor and desperate land works. They want to be strong again, but still have their dreams and ambitions still in tact. The world may be ugly sometimes, but they must attempt to live.
“The Wind Rises” is unlike any other Studio Ghibli film I’ve seen. Not only is it based off of an actual person, but it trades in the other world mystical sense of “Spirited Away” and “My Neighbor Totoro” for a sense of wonder and exciting. It doesn’t go out of its way to be fancy, but just offer up visuals that feel at home. Like the planes throughout the film, it glides smoothly and with grace, like a flock of birds after a rain storm.
Final Grade: A