Next week, a rare thing happens for Swiss cinemas. The Wind Rises starts screening. While there is no shortage of animated movies in cinemas, there is one for traditionally animated movies. And if they’re from Japan, it’s doubly extraordinary.
For all the Swiss know about Japanese animation, anime, they are cartoons on TV I the afternoon where people in outrageous outfits have epic battles and shoot laser death rays out of their hands. Either that, or they’re pornography with tentacles in them. There is, however, a world between those two. Movies that are more in the spirit of a real drama movie, just that they happen to be animated.
One of the masters of this art is Hayao Miyazaki a Japanese animator whose movies have enchanted and amazed millions around the world. He’s the man behind classics like Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Ponyo. Now, there is The Wind Rises, Miyazaki’s last move. Because he’s now retired after more than 40 years in the industry.
What a Nice War That Was
The Wind Rises is very much a labour of love. Over the course of Myazaki’s career, it has become apparent that he really, really likes planes and manned flight in general. And Kaze Tachinu as The Wind Rises was originally known in Japan is the story of the Japanese aeronautic industry in the 1940s. It is a very wonderful movie. Slowly told over two hours, it shows the life and times of a man who had a dream of flying and building planes.
It’s a biopic that chronicles the life of Jiro Horikoshi who’s the designer of the Japanese warplanes Mitsubishi A5M and its successor the A6M, better known as the Zero. The Zero was infamous during World War II due to its long range and its maneuverability. They were also in the Kamikaze attacks and involved in the Battle of Pearl Harbor.
This is one of the two things where the movie gets a bit awkward. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with building planes or dreaming of building bigger, better and faster engines, to explore the skies, breaking frontiers and challenging our world. Quite the opposite. This is something that must be done.
But the fact that these planes, as fantastic as they were for their days, were used in the greatest war that this world has ever seen and were instrumental in some of the worst attacks recorded and in The Wind Rises they’re glorified to the level where they’re almost magical devices. They’re stylized to be these miraculous things while being instruments of death. The awkward part, though, is this: Despite the Zero being infamous for bringing death and destruction, look at flight.
We ride explosions in cylinders up into the sky and break free from gravity that will never stop trying to get us back onto ground. The act of flying in a plane is – while scientifically explained in great detail – something that seems impossible and miraculous.
Life as a Fairy Tale
In The Wind Rises, Jiro Hoshikori’s dreams are the dreams of flying. In beautiful and scientifically impossible sequences, Jiro talks to his idol Giovanni Battista Caproni, aeronautical engineer and much more, who inspires, encourages and pushes him.
It’s these dream sequences that make this movie kind of weird. The second thing, really. Jiro’s life seems too much like a fairy tale. The producers readily admit that it’s fictionalized biography, but it doesn’t even have the slightest feeling of being a biography. Sure, time passes and people move forward in their lives, but it doesn’t seem authentic or like a life that was actually lived.
However, the people in this movie are all real people. Jiro Hoshikori existed, so did Caproni and all the other people in the film.
Still, The Wind Rises is an amazing movie. Quiet, subdued and long. It’s a perfect opportunity to unwind for a few hours and see a man dream of flying. And to see that to some people, flying is not just something they do to get to their latest holiday destination. It’s a calling, not a means to an end. A passion.
The Wind Rises opens in cinemas next week. You should go see it. Here’s a trailer.