Sunday, 1 March 2015

Noteworthy Films of 2014: The Wind Rises

2014 proved to be a turbulent and worrying time for Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki’s “official” retirement,  and the studio’s announcement of radical in-house changes prompted fans to fear the worst. Yet it was a relatively busy period for Ghibli with the releases of The Tale of Princess Kaguya and The Wind Rises in the west and the unfortunately disappointing When Marnie Was Here in Japan. Being a massive fan of their work, it was slightly shocking to read the headlines so soon after their recent accession to the global limelight. It’s therefore fortunate that Miyazaki’s long, acclaimed career ends on a distinguished high with The Wind Rises. 

A story of perseverance, drama and romance amidst pre-war Japan, The Wind Rises continues Ghibli’s more realistic and grounded approach to it’s narratives. While definitely more light-hearted than Grave of the Fireflies, The Wind Rises still touches on some very mature themes even with it’s undercurrent of humour and tenderness. While it avoids to really delve into the heavy themes of war as Japanese cinema tends to do (my article), and constitutes more of a fictionalised version of Jiro Horikoshi’ s career in Japanese military aviation, the story is a thought-provoking and genuinely poignant one. 

The flowing and dynamic nature of the studio’s iconic animation style is present as always. With the aeronautical nature of the story, the sense of speed and fragility as prototype aircraft tear the skies is exhilarating and gorgeous to watch. Body language and interactions are intricately depicted giving vast amounts of personality to the characters and film in general. As with all their previous films it’s the small details that really add uniqueness to Ghibli’s work. Whether it’s their careful attention to a bookcase in the background or the light glistening off the sea, their pursuit for perfection is evident. As too is Joe Hisaishi’s impassioned score. 

Apart from a rather rushed conclusion, The Wind Rises is a touching and beautiful piece of cinema.   With a career spanning 5 decades, Hayao Miyazaki has continued to deliver heart-warming and enchanting stories and characters to fans of animation and general cinema. I have a sneaky suspicion that this won’t necessarily be the last we see from him, but looking back it’s been an esteemed career that will entertain and captivate children and audiences forever. 

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