The Wind Rises (2013)
April 17, 2020 1:45 AM - Subscribe

A look at the life of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed Japanese fighter planes during World War II. A 2013 Japanese animated historical drama film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Film critic David Ehrlich called it, "Perhaps the greatest animated film ever made."
posted by growabrain (5 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I found this film to be much less compelling than any other Miyazaki movie. The hero was singleminded and unconcerned about the political implications of his actions, and the mouth-made sound effects were just a weird choice. Beautifully drawn, of course, but hard to square with the rest of the artist’s output.
posted by rikschell at 5:41 AM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen this in years, but I remember it fondly. Miyazaki has always had a fascination with fantastical fictional flying machines, so to have him turn his talents to the design of actual flying machines is wonderful.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:17 AM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]


I have seen this film since it came out but I just reread what I what I wrote about it then and I still have strong memories of the visuals, particularly the way that the movement of air was constantly portrayed. It is a really beautiful movie.

However, I found the choices made in the plot perplexing. There is a WWII shaped hole in the film, I realize that The Wind Rises is not interested in telling that story but glossing over certain aspects of Horikoshi‘s life does him and the audience a disservice.
posted by AndrewStephens at 12:23 PM on April 17, 2020 [2 favorites]


I am a scientist, and I loved this movie, because it tries to explain how your career can shape your life. That this can be problematic and morally fraught is part of the deal.
posted by acrasis at 3:31 PM on April 17, 2020 [1 favorite]


The hero was singleminded and unconcerned about the political implications of his actions, and the mouth-made sound effects were just a weird choice. Beautifully drawn, of course, but hard to square with the rest of the artist’s output.

There is a WWII shaped hole in the film, I realize that The Wind Rises is not interested in telling that story but glossing over certain aspects of Horikoshi‘s life does him and the audience a disservice.

I don't want to slight anyone's reaction to the movie, but my feeling is that this sort of misses the emotional arc of the film. I just rewatched the movie, since it is currently available on the Internet Archive site, in dubious legality, to refresh my memory of it because my recollection was quite a bit different.

The movie essentially sets out the conflict between beauty and use, in design of the planes, where WWII is implicitly present from the opening of the movie through its end, looming over everything that Jiro does throughout the film. His drive to design is out of the love of flight, but he has an underlying knowledge that the use his designs will be put to is for war and death. That shows up in his earliest dream that opens the film and is the major theme of the entire movie. It isn't laid out in the most explicit terms, as it might be in a Hollywood movie, but it is ever present in everything that happens. Jiro's design leads to death, but it also captures something of the essence of life.

The title of the movie comes from Paul Valéry's poem Graveyard by the Sea, which is quoted to Jiro in the movie on his first meeting with the entirely fictional Nahoko Satomi, who was borrowed by Miyazaki from another work of fiction, The Wind Has Risen, to be combined with his take on Jiro Horikoshi's life. The poem expresses something of the tension between Jiro's need to create and the uses to which his creation will be put. The end of the movie has Japan itself as a graveyard by the sea, but the line being quoted is an exhortation: "The wind is rising! . . . We must try to live!" and is what Nahoko tells Jiro at the very end of the movie, "You must live". The movie accepts the contradiction between creation and destruction being present in the same actions, in the same moments, in our existence, and doesn't try to separate them, just show them as being simultaneously present. The character of Nahoko is the embodiment of this. Her health and their relationship matches both the beauty in the creative act, the essence of trying to live fully, and the cost of that creativity when it is put into use, her death coming at the moment of success of the design is demonstrated.

The movie repeatedly emphasizes the conflicting pressures in Jiro's work both in the story, through his visit to Germany and admiration for Junker's German place design, even as the German military is equally threatening, in Jiro's discussions with the German dissenter "Castorp", an homage to Mann's novel The Magic Mountain (which also ends in ambiguity around warfare), and perhaps most beautifully and importantly in the reoccurring visual motif Miyazaki uses around things drifting in the wind, both as elements of destruction, the burning paper and embers from the flames after the earthquake early on in the film, bombs, snow, rain, and other items all echoing Jiro's vision of his beautiful planes and simultaneously warning of them.

In a way, the structure of the story isn't all that different than that of My Neighbor Totoro, where the mother's absence underlines all the other events in the film, even when the full accounting of that absence and purpose of her stay in the hospital isn't mentioned. Thematically, the tension between beauty and utility, in a way, is the subject of Princess Mononoke as well, where it is the beauty and majesty of nature pitted against the needs of men, with an uneasy balance between the two being at issue. That kind of conflict is always present in Miyazaki's works, with "good" and "bad" being less diametrically opposed than alternative perspectives needing to be considered to find the best possible end. His other movies have children for heroes though, and are made from the vantage point of a child's perspective, while The Wind Rises is made form a more adult vantage point, less about looking forward towards how to live and more about the choices one has made during a life. The Wind Rises is more ambivalently melancholic for that, which is something that comes out in music used in the film as well.

It's certainly possible to disagree with the ambivalence or feel that Jiro should have been more explicitly concerned with the use his designs would be put to or the world in which he was living in, but that, to me, is asking the movie to be better than the lived world, to make the viewer feel as if they would be able to make the "right" choices when we can see that isn't so easy to do, just look to all those working on AI and associated projects, that can and will be put to terrible uses even as they may have compelling positive "beauty" as well. That the movie takes place in the past places more emphasis on seeing the complexity in the choices, there is no way to watch the movie with any awareness of the Zero fighter and not factor in what they were used for and the history of WWII, that's unavoidable from the perspective of today.

But what is also important is to note this perspective on the history is a specifically Japanese one, not some generic version of events. Jiro Horikoshi was something of a pacifist and was opposed to WWII but designed the planes despite that. Miyazaki captures the beauty of Jiro's vision without ignoring the effects of that dream. He doesn't demand the viewer condemn or accept the outcome, he just tries to capture the essence of that opposition as one who sees it as a thing in itself rather than something to judge from a distance.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:33 PM on April 18, 2020 [12 favorites]


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