Film Review – The Wind Rises
The Wind Rises
Hayao Miyazaki has been often referred to as the Walt Disney of Japan. He has been the driving force behind Studio Ghibli. He has churned out a slew of classic animated films over the years. Being in his seventies, he is claiming that his newest film will be his last. While not necessarily his masterwork, The Wind Rises will serve as a strong note to go out on.
This may be the first and only animated film that has an aeronautical engineer as it’s hero. That alone makes it unique in the world. Essentially this is the story of how a dreamer works to make his vision a reality and how the intent of invention can be separated from it’s actual implementation. Pretty heady ideals for what many might try to dismiss as a kid’s film.
While heavily fictionalized, the movie focuses on the real life figure of Jiro Horikoshi. He was the designer of the Japanese Zero which was instrumental in the attack on Pearl Harbor and instrumental in making Japan a deadly fighting force throughout World War II. As a child, Jiro dreams of flight. Visions of busting through clouds while soaring through the air capture his imagination. As a young adult, he often has daydreams where ideas of what his new aircraft might look like intrude on his daily interactions. The most frequent dream he has involves Gianni Caproni, an Italian plane designer who speaks to him in his visions about creating beautiful aircraft. Jiro comes up with ideas for flush mounted bolts to minimize drag on the exterior of airplanes. He makes drawings of a specially designed wing that should create lift on small crafts. On a research trip around the world, he is inspired by the sleek metallic exteriors on German planes that are much further advanced than the wooden models with which Japan is struggling.
Meanwhile, Jiro falls in love with a young woman who is ill with tuberculosis. She loves him dutifully, but is only able to leave home for short periods due to her illness. The impending war effort and demands of his job often separate him from her. They have a pure love. Time and duty seem to be his greatest hurdles.
Many interesting things are going on in this story. Jiro’s desire to make a sleek machine is very separate from what the Japanese military intends to implement. Much like Oppenheimer inventing the bomb while not intending to cause devastation, the intent of making a small metallic plane isn’t motivated by hate of the Allied forces. In fact, at one point he states that a weight problem they are having with their design might be overcome if they get rid of the guns. He is aware of the oncoming war, and he isn’t ignorant of what purpose these planes will serve. But his own desire to create is what helps him ignore the destruction that his creation will implement.
The Wind Rises looks beautiful. The soul that lives in hand drawn animation like this is still something very special. Miyazaki chose this subject based on his love affair with flight. It infuses his previous works. Just look at Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind or Kiki’s Delivery Service or certain sequences in Howl’s Moving Castle. The visuals of soaring over countrysides has been lovingly portrayed in all of those films. This new film may move a little slowly at times. It may not cast the magical spell of a Spirited Away or My Neighbor Totoro. But as a complicated fable and a love letter to flying itself, The Wind Rises is well worth seeing.