Animated drama for mature viewers by Hayao Miyazaki. Contains subtitles.
FILM SYNOPSIS: The Wind Rises is a 2013 Japanese animated historical fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Ponyo, Howlís Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro), and adapted from his own manga of the same name. It is a fictionalized biography of Jiro Horikoshi, designer of the Mitsubishi A5M (featured in the movie) and its famous successor, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. Both aircraft were used by the Empire of Japan during World War II. The epic tale includes the depiction of a devastating earthquake, a tuberculosis epidemic, and a love story that unfolds throughout the film.
PREVIEW REVIEW: On one hand, it is an imaginative, lovely film, a swansong for a gifted storyteller. On the other, the pictureís protagonist is a warplane designer who helps create the Jap Zero. (Sorry, thatís what they called them.) While we are presented a gentle man who shows kindness to others, he is also a man with little interest in the knowledge that these planes are killing machines not for defense, but for aggression. One canít view the Zero without conjuring up visions of Dec 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombarded Pearl Harbor without first declaring war. Itís difficult getting caught up in the romantic animation while the movie avoids the impact these planes would have.
At one point, Jiro nonchalantly asks who Japan is going to attack. It doesnít seem to matter when he learns which countries will be battled. The scene reminded me of that moment in Frankenstein when the creature playfully tosses flowers into the water with the little girl. He has a gentle side, we feel for him, but the conclusion of that scene makes clear that he is a monster.
In 1981, the German film Das Boot concerned a WWII U-boat and its crew as it fought and fled the allies. By filmís end audiences were rooting for the subís crew, hoping they would evade detection. It revealed the power of the cinema, for at that moment audiences were actually aligning with the Nazis. Thereís a responsibility a moviemaker must accept when depicting the realities of history. Itís one thing to put a human face on oneís enemy. Itís another to get us to align with him.
I loved the animation, the score, the romance and the imagination found in The Wind Rises. But each time I see characters in the film bow to one another out of respect, it sends mixed messages about Japanís idea of honor during the 1940s.
Side note about the making of Japanís warplanes: I have read that some of the laborers who built those planes were Korean and Chinese people, forced into labor.
I donít want to give the impression that Iím anti-Japanese. Iím just concerned that Miyazaki avoids any depiction of the horror these planes inflicted. In America, filmmakers wonít allow the evil of slavery to be forgotten. But both Germany and Japan are allowed to overlook their satanic moments. Why is that?
Miyazaki seems obsessed with the main characterís creative process. He allows Jiro to be morally disconnected to the outcome of his creations. Itís as if the filmmaker were lifting up an individualís right to create despite the creationís fallout on the many. Miyazaki places no rebuke on Jiro, who, upon close examination, is in his own little world, caught up in his work and his sick wife, but oblivious to the world at large. Itís insensitive of the famed filmmaker. And though there are ďglimmers of doom,Ē as one reviewer put it, for a nation bent on imperialism, how much more poignant would the story have been had at least one scene depicted Jiro Horikoshi feeling guilt or remorse.