The Wind Rises Review
Originally Published for MCM Buzz on the 10th of May 2014.
This is it. Studio Ghibli’s The Wind Rises marks legendary animator, director and inspired storyteller Hayao Miyazaki’s final voyage, and what a voyage it is. This partly autobiographical tale reimagines the life of aeroplane designer Jiro Horikoshi, innovator of some of the most iconic World War II fighter planes. It draws from Miyazaki’s own love of aircraft and the fantastically serene tone of Ghibli animations to produce a refined and visually astounding masterpiece. This could well be the last film of its kind.
The film follows Jiro from childhood to the heights of his success in aviation, taking on all of the themes that the world has come to expect from Miyazaki and studio Ghibli alike. From the value of kindness to the futility and destruction of war, life is shown to be complex but always beautiful. The story itself is bittersweet from start to finish, yet ultimately it is a celebration of all parts of life that urges you to be creative, determined and caring.
The animation itself is simply stunning, showcasing gorgeous watercolour landscapes, charming character designs and captivating flight scenes that boast vibrant colours and an incredible and classic style. Miyazaki’s direction shows a cinematic sensibility that is unmatched, not only in the world of animation, but in cinema as a whole. The Wind Rises masterfully captures the peaceful beauty of flying. Jiro’s ethereal mentor and Italian design pioneer Giovanni Caproni muses that “engineers turn dreams into reality”, and this is certainly true of Miyazaki and the endlessly talented Ghibli animators. The score is also truly astounding, bursting from peaceful silence into wave after wave of emotion throughout.
This plot itself excellently paced, taking the viewer through critical moments in Jiro’s life whilst keeping the wonderful fantasy of Ghibli’s previous features alive through gorgeous dream sequences and a sense of positivity, which creates a level of quiet maturity none of its predecessors can compete with. The characters are brilliantly fleshed out to the point that it becomes easy to forget they are animated. From Jiro’s cynical but loyal friend Honjo to the kind-hearted but comically irritable Kurokawa, every person Jiro encounters feels honest and proves to be memorable and inspiring in their own way. It is hard to forget the absurd but hauntingly aware figure of Castorp, a visitor to Japan who warns Jiro of the impending war. The adult complexity of the film is often found in the tension between innovation and destruction, from Jiro’s contribution to war as a result of his inspired pursuit of a profound dream.
Whilst flight gives The Wind Rises a sense of scale and incredibly well crafted visual spectacle, the emotional aspect of the Wind Rises shines through Jiro’s understated but intimate relationship with the strong willed and compassionate Nahoko. Their story is inexhaustibly charming, and the direction their lives take together is both captivating and heartbreaking. In many ways their love reflects the film’s depiction of flight, as it is both beautiful and harmful, but Jiro’s inspired optimism shows how the wonder that is found in life is well worth the pain. Miyazaki’s own experience comes through here as much as in the environmentalist and pacifist tones that emerge throughout Jiro’s adventure.
The Wind Rises stands out as Miyazaki’s most personal picture. It confounds you with beauty, complexity, love and loss and dreams and heartbreak, all the while reminding you that life is a wonderful thing. This message is all the more important considering that this marks the last film directed by one of the great cinematic pioneers of the century. Despite the absence of any nature spirits, magical creatures or wicked witches, Miyazaki’s last outing as a director is inspired, magical storytelling at its absolute finest.
The Wind Rises soars into selected UK cinemas on the 9th of May.