The Wind Rises: Movie Review
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
If this is Miayazaki's last ever film, it appears the Studio Ghibli director has gone out on something mellow, but visually extraordinary.
It's the biographical story of Jiro Horikoshi, an aeronautical designer whose work shaped Mitsubishi. Beginning with Horikoshi as a young boy, blighted with near sight and therefore whose dream of flying a plane is dashed in 1918.
However, Jiro's blessed with an imagination and is prone to flights of fancy and daydreaming which see him conversing with an Italian aeronautical engineer called Caproni. It's these dreams which see Jiro follow his passion for planes despite the tempestuous times ahead for Japan with the Kanto earthquake of 1923 and of course, World War II.
Through it all though, Jiro finds love - a tragic love which is doomed...
The Wind Rises is a reflective piece, blessed with gorgeous animation that you've come to expect from Miyazaki. With trademark painted backgrounds and some truly magical shots, the animation is beyond top flight. Planes swoop through clouds as if they were cotton during Jiro's dream sequences and lushly animated scenes give a feeling of the surreal nature of the fantastical.
Then again, there is also the menace inherent in the earthquake and the channeling of almost childlike noises during planes flying. The very brief earthquake sequence itself is extraordinary - a kind of rumbling roar becomes a rippling wave of destruction as the roads and countryside roll and rise up to signify the carnage of Kanto. In these dark sequences alone, Miyazaki's crafted a fine blend of magical, memorable and downright frightening, transforming the normal into the horrific and capturing the essence of the horror of nature revolting against humanity.
But there's more than just sumptuous animation here.
Miyazaki's made a reflective piece that hints at the world around Jiro as well as apparently drawing parallels to his own life. Jiro's an upstanding young man, a man who has a moral code and who cares for those around him - from helping an earthquake victim to standing up to a bully, he's a man whose approach to life is to be marvelled. Miyazaki's captured these moments in quieter times during the animation, as well as providing thought-provoking commentary on Japan and America's quest to rule the skies.
In fact, while the divide between Jiro wanting to pursue his aviation dream and the military wanting to increase their might is never overtly stated, the clues are there on the screen and the message more than just allegorical. There's a haunting quality to the final sequence as Jiro picks his way through a field strewn with plane wreckage (and comments have been made before that none returned home) as the skies burn around him, with his dream mentor congratulating him on following his dream. The stark realities of war are always lurking but are subtly sketched out - something which adds to the dreamlike quality of the film.
In the end, The Wind Rises is heartbreaking - a story of love through the decades, of love of dreams, a love of your life; it's also a film which gives Miyazaki a fittingly mournful send-off with a reflection on his own life (anyone reading more on Miyazaki will see parallels with the loves of his life and his attitudes). It's a poignant end to a master's career and a cinematic experience that cries out to be enjoyed on the big screen.