Written by Ankit Ojha
Japanese Script: 風立ちぬ
A. K. A.: The Wind Rises
“All I wanted to do was to make something beautiful.”
What to Expect
This is the first Studio Ghibli film I decided I was ready to watch.
Quite an irony, that; primarily because this would be revered animator-filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki’s apparent last film, which would inevitably push Ghibli to the imminent re-evaluation of their business strategy (thus the current hiatus), was the first of any Studio Ghibli film I had taken an interest in, much less heard of. Stumbling upon the UK trailer of this Academy Award nominated film – albeit a bit too late – I knew I had to start my Ghibli journey with this film.
Not Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away). Not Mononoke-hime (Princess Mononoke). Not Gake no Ue no Ponyo (Ponyo).
With what feels like a spiritual successor to Miyazaki’s earlier Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies), this film felt like the right place to begin, as for me, I’ve only seen lesser and lesser dramas being tackled in the animation genre of late. Animation’s always considered to be more about the spectacle than about the art of it all, and while I absolutely enjoy such stylistic forms of animation for all that they are, I craved for something deeper – more intimate.
And then this happened.
What’s it About
Tracing (a rather fictionalized version of the events of) the life of famed aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi (Hideaki Anno), who grows up with a dream to watch planes fly. But as the years pass by, he comes across various degrees of love, of loss and of heartbreak.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
This film, on an individual level alone, has two issues: its pacing and its lack of a singular, severe conflict.
But life is never about a singular conflict; a chapter of life, maybe, but never an entire lifespan. And this, being Miyazaki’s indirect intent as both writer and director, comes out on an absolutely effective level. Directly, however, he talks about the strong dreams that drive people to achieve bigger goals in life. The imagery in the| film succinctly captures how vivid these dreams can get; how these dreams continue to inspire you to live your life. To epitomize these thematic elements, we’re presented with a rather uncanny invisible character: the wind.
“Le vent se lève! . . . Il faut tenter de vivre!”
(“The wind is rising… We must try to live!“)
These rather apt lines of the Paul Valéry poem Le Cimetière marin open – and intertwine themselves in – the film. Not only does the wind have a superficially direct connection to Jiro’s dreams and goals, it is but a very effective motif through itself, right to the end of the movie, acting as a gut-wrenchingly powerful symbol in its pre-climactic portions.
One of the other very commendable portions of the film lies in the romance of the protagonist and his love interest. Despite not having much of a role, the presence Naoko holds primarily as a character of interest during those minutes of her existence pull you in to their sweeping romantic interludes. Right from the subtlety of companionship to the fleeting presence of intimacy that will ultimately test those unreachable parts of your heart that may not have been touched by an animation film the way this would.
The animation is as passionate as the chemistry of the protagonists; sweeping and fairly detailed. Now, it might not have the advantages of a 3D-animated movie, but the 2D in itself has drawn around its frames a fascinating, rather organic vista that not a lot of movies can compare. The detailing in itself shows on certain constant physical attributes of the film’s enclosed in characters, who grow up as you grow into the film. The designs of the various fighter and defense planes shown in the film come to life with such fantastic hand-rendered visuals of the surreal assembly of what would eventually be beautiful flying machines in the film.
I cannot leave this section, however, without mentioning Joe Hisashi’s terrific score to the film. Superior semi-classical pieces blend in metaphorically with the visuals, giving the viewers a melange of sound and vision, thereby elevating its emotional responsiveness. Watch out for the piece A Heart Aflutter, aptly appearing before the second interaction between Jiro and his sister Kayo, which is short – but leaves you gasping for more.
To Perform or Not to Perform
Hideaki Anno’s voicing of the Jiro is a master stroke in its own self. Anno’s voice is calming and assured, like the character would be. Jiro’s emotions – grounded and silent – are almost perfectly complemented by Anno’s vocal consistency and subtle expressiveness. Miori Takimoto is fantastic as Naoko. The emotional dynamics she reaches are the pinnacle of perfection. Ditto for Mirai Shida’s Kayo Horikoshi, who echoes the sister’s outer stern shell; one that progressively unravels to a rather soft side. A particular scene exemplifies perfectly the different emotions dexterously handled in a few lines of dialogue. Nomura Mansai does a proper job encapsulating Jiro’s surrealist version of Caproni. Hidetoshi Nishijima performs well to Honjo – giving us but the proper vibe to his rather obnoxious, riddled-in-structure character. Others are good.
The pacing will be a major issue to the audience; the lack of a proper conflict a minor. The important thing, however – for the audience that’s ready to sit through it all in patience – is how the movie eventually seeps into you, and becomes a part of you; unshakable for hours at end. Crafted with love, and supported by fantastic writing and direction of the various facets of Jiro’s life – the real and the surreal; the heartwarming and the heartbreaking; the reality and the surreality. Should you have an appetite and the patience to watch an animation film that’s made for the art of animation more than as a cash cow, The Wind Rises, on its own, impresses as a semi-fictitious, semi-biographical account of a man who dreamt of big things.
It might just make you want to revisit your own larger-than-life dreams.
Star Rating: 4.5 / 5