27/02/2018

The Wind Rises - Dreams On Windswept Earth

Thoughts On: The Wind Rises (風立ちぬ, 2013)


The fictionalised life of aircraft designer, Jiro Horikoshi.


Miyazaki reaches into his depths with The Wind Rises, producing one of his most genuine, imaginative and earnest films. Intimately realised, gently composed, beautifully orchestrated, The Wind Rises mythologises the life of Jiro Horikoshi. Seen as a historical film, this is then incredibly inaccurate and absurdly elliptical. Somewhat symptomatic of the approach to structure and truth, there is some controversy around this film in regards to Miyazaki's own politics and his presentation of history. An article that collects many quotes from Miyazaki can be found here.

In my view, it is best to not see The Wind Rises as a historical picture. Instead, this is Miyazaki's impression of history. And so, to Miyazaki, Jiro "wasn't thinking about weapons - really all he desired was to make exquisite planes". It seems that Ghibli wanted to capture this sentiment as to express the manner in which Jiro built and encapsulated Japan's dreams of the time - and to say they do a stunning job would be a huge understatement. The symbols of this grand dream are Jiro's Mitsubishi A5M...


... and the A6M Zero...


For Miyazaki the AM6 Zero "represented one of the few things we Japanese could be proud of". And this is, of course, in spite of the fact that Japan fought on the side of the Axis powers during WWII.

It is here that we find the crux of The Wind Rises. Just like Miyazaki quickly moves beyond the horrific facts of WWII, he entirely reworks the facts of Jiro's life: his wife never had tuberculosis. He blinds himself to reality to both alleviate and contrive tragedy as to fortify poetic melancholy. There is certainly an ethical question to be held above Miyazaki's intentional misrepresentation/lack of representation of WWII and Japan's role as allies to Nazi Germany. However, it is simultaneously obvious exactly what it is that Miyazaki is trying to achieve. It is because I see no harmful outcomes of the lack of recognition that I fail to see him creating poisonous, revisionist propaganda with The Wind Rises. And so, though he doesn't consistently critique Japan's history, he also never shines undue positive light upon it. Whilst the planes and Jiro's creativity are revered, there is then a central inner-conflict present throughout the narrative, one pertaining to dreams being placed upon earth.

With some of the most poignant and beautiful integrations of surrealism into a classical narrative, Miyazaki shows us two dreams. The first is aeronautic and the second is romantic. A young Jiro dreams of making planes, but the only way he will ever be able to make them is for a war machine. An older Jiro dreams of a girl he loves, but they will ever be able to be together as she withers away. These two separate instances of irony are bound by one greater irony that is mentioned in the film; a man can only work hard when a family waits at home.

The Wind Rises is full of these subtly ironic dichotomies, all of which are based upon dreams meeting reality. If a country is to prosper, they must out-compete others. If a company is to experiment, they must also succeed. If a man is to keep his family together, he must love and leave them for work. It is a dream that propels life forward in these instances, but sacrifice that keeps the dreamer on the tracks. Fate, however, seems to be carried on wind that threatens blow the dream off course or onto entirely new tracks.

In showing the bitter-sweetness of life in such a poetic manner, Miyazaki evokes such a powerful sense of melancholy fulfilment. With irony, with genuity, with honesty, with misrepresentation, Miyazaki somehow crafts a near-masterpiece that plays upon the senses as much as it does the mind and emotions. I find it hard to muster words that do this narrative much justice, but I can easily say that this is one of Ghibli's best.


Before I end this post, I have to mention that we are now only two more films away from concluding the series. We have not delved into My Neighbour Totoro in much depth, and there are a few Ghibli co-productions (such as The Red Turtle) that I would be interested in tagging into the series once it is over. Nonetheless, we are nearing the end of our look at all of the Ghibli films. I hope you've enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing and watching. But, let's not get too sentimental, we've still got more to do. That said, however, thanks to all of those who have followed the series this far.

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