“The Wind Rises” Review
I am very proud to say that I have now seen every film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki…well, every one of them released in the U.S. that is. I fell in love with this man’s incredible talent some years ago and I have been hooked ever since. I’ve developed a strong connection with his gift and the product of this said gift. Not only is he one of the finest animation directors out there, but he is one of the finest “directors” out there as well, which is precisely why it is so sad to see him retire from his director’s chair.
“The Wind Rises” is Miyazaki’s final film and, in my opinion, his most personal. Much more grounded than any of his other works, The Wind Rises is the movie that reflects his passion more than any of his others. He has shown us the simple grace of childhood, the true power of everlasting love, incredible hope at a time of devastation, and most importantly, to accept the whimsical and try to see the beauty in the world, no matter how ugly it may be on the outside. Now for his final film he brings each of these lessons and crams them all into one showing us how a true passion can drive someone to create anything he sets his mind to, much like how Miyazaki is with his writing and directing.
Jirô Horikoshi is the real-life aircraft designer who, ever since he was a child, has dreamt of flight. We see this through an assortment of dreams that he has in his childhood and throughout his adult years as well, we also see this passion through his determination and commitment to producing these wondrous flying machines. While Miyazaki may enjoy airplanes and find them interesting, I feel that he has used this story line as a medium in order to communicate his own passion for film making without making it too obvious.
Miyazaki has brought a character to screen that, much like an architect or an artist, can create something out of almost nothing as long as he has the determination to go through with it. This person can practically create anything from his wildest dreams, which is much like how animation is to a film maker. Through animation, you are not tied down by the restraints of realism. Yeah sure, visual effects have really developed over the years since film making first began, but there is always a limit, but not with animation and I think that is why Miyazaki was so drawn to this cinematic technique. A lot of his films are very dreamlike; a couple that come to mind are Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Porco Rosso; and with animation, you can more effectively recreate these dreams and make something into more than just a test in modern filmmaking and FX.
Like in Miyazaki’s many other films, the animation is, of course, absolutely breathtaking. You can’t find any better animation than this guy’s signature drawing technique. Unlike some other animators, Miyazaki takes his time putting every piece of detail that he possible can into each streak of a pencil or stroke of a brush. You can say the same for his writing which is masterful as always.
If this guy started writing live-action films, he could possibly be compared to such legends as Quentin Tarantino and Charlie Kaufman. Like these two masters of the art, Miyazaki gives his characters the most interesting things to say. Unlike many other animated films, Miyazaki’s don’t thrive on comedic relief and action; instead, they rely on conversations and the dialogue the characters utter throughout the film and this was no exception. Giving even voices in the background a definitive persona, Miyazaki crafts the script with a magnifying glass and a sledge hammer, showing us an emotional complexity that can only be created from a man who has a true passion for what he does. Miyazaki’s screenplay is just as beautiful, if not more so, as the wonderful hand drawn/water colored world that surrounds it.
Although I have never met the man, I can tell that Miyazaki is fascinated by the human mind, effectively and daintily combing through the hairs of our brain with a fine toothed comb. He searches for our greatest fears (Spirited Away), our greatest hopes (My Neighbor Totoro), and our greatest dreams with this final installment to his legacy. The main character of The Wind Rises, Jirô Horikoshi, is absolutely fascinated by the machinery that populates the inside of the airplanes he hopes to one day create, and this is what drives him. In a way, it’s a lot like Miyazaki’s fascination with the human condition and the machinery that commands our every movie and thought. This is a fascination that I also possess, me being the aspiring director and screenwriter that I am. One of the biggest reasons for why I fell in love with these movies is because of their wonderful sense of imagination and the undeniable presence of hope that screams, “Anything is possible,” even me walking up to that podium in front of hundreds of others who are in search of the same moment, looking to me for inspiration.
I, and many others, have a very deep passion for the art of cinema; one may call it a love. Even back when I was still crawling on all fours I couldn’t take my eyes away from the screen, just ask my parents. This may also go for Miyazaki, although he didn’t even have close to the technological advances that we have today when he was just a toddler. This lack of technology may be the cause of his impeccable imagination and sense of wonder. The Wind Rises possessed that sense almost more than any of Miyazaki’s previous films. I think that he will be the one who has the hardest time with his retirement, even more so than any of his many fans, including me. He didn’t create films; he created worlds, worlds that are so vivid you could almost touch them. They were worlds that were more genuine and real than any world portrayed in a live-action format with characters so engaging and dialogue so riveting, I could watch each of them a million times over and it would still feel like the first time. You may not realize it, but he brought dreams to life and that’s something that only animation can accomplish.
“Here is a children’s film made for the world we should live in, rather than the one we occupy.” This was a statement made by Chicago Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert in his review for Hayao Miyazaki’s film My Neighbor Totoro. According to his reviews for and interviews about Miyazaki’s films, Ebert was a big fan and, sadly, he was unable to see his final film before his tragic death last year. I feel that this statement made by Ebert doesn’t just sum up the point of the masterpiece My Neighbor Totoro (which is my favorite Miyazaki film), but a description for every movie that has ever come from this legendary animator. He creates stories that you just don’t find too often these days. He doesn’t portray the world we currently live in, but a world that we should live in, and one day we hopefully will; a world with no villains, no devastation, no pain. The Wind Rises is Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, but it is nowhere near his worst. Miyazaki is one of the only film makers who does not contain even one blemish in his incredible filmography, and I can definitely see why. Just watch any of his films and you’ll understand exactly what I mean. He is an auteur and The Wind Rises is a touching and engaging swan song for this cinematic legend. You can tell that Miyazaki was not looking to please audiences with this one, he was only looking to please himself, and I bet you this is his proudest achievement.