Re:View - 'The Wind Rises'

Christopher Fowler
1348367a-bcb6-48f1-8f0e-5351c3911b00 Put two men in a room and they'll eventually talk about drainage. We like discussing the nuts and bolts of invention, and to that extent 'The Wind Rises' could be called a boys' film. But it is also achingly beautiful, surreal, fragile. I first fell in love with the work of Miyazaki Hayao, animation director of 'Spirited Away', back in the early 1980s when I played 'Castle Of Cagliostro' on a then state-of-the-art video game in a bar in LA. It ran clips from this early work which you had to make simple actions to continue. What stood out was the astonishing heightened realism of the visuals, which were stylised like a Japanese version of Tintin drawings. Those stylings grew and developed in a different direction to western animations, as far removed from Disney as it's possible to imagine - not better or worse, just an elegant alternative. What separated Miyazaki, though, was his willingness to explore less obviously populist themes. In 'Porco Rosso', a pilot in the form of a pig flies missions after World War 1 in the Adriatic. In a Disney version the explanation for the flying pig would have formed the story's set-up, with a curse, a villain and a showdown. Instead, 'Porco Rosso' has its explanation at the end and finishes not with violence but with a heartbreaking grace-note. Miyazaki says that 'The Wind Rises' will be his last film. It's certainly his most personal representation of the artist as dreamer, but is filled with themes that run through all of his films. This time, though, the lead character is a historical figure; Horikoshi Jiro, the aeronautics engineer who designed the Zero fighter plane which was used at Pearl Harbor. Miyazaki is not interested in looking at the ways in which an artist's work may be subverted for warlike purposes - he's out to chronicle a life spent in pursuit of a dream, and tell of a love affair between the designer and his tuberculosis-suffering wife. The title is from a line in Paul Valéry, "The wind is rising... we must attempt to live", and live Jiro does, working at Mitsubishi and in Germany, lamenting Japan's status as a nation so poor that its aircraft have to be towed to the field by oxen, questioning why so much must be spent in warplanes. But he doesn't question much - he's more interested in how a mackerel bone can act as the guide to a wing's shape. The film perfectly captures a scientist's need to discover, the blinkered dedication that requires him to screen out the rest of the world. Yet the most delicate and touching scene involves his wife, when he agrees to work with one hand so that he can hold her hand in the other. Stunning, epic moments are balanced by these tiny gestures. The film could be called 'Jiro Dreams Of Flying' as his dreams reveal vast skies filled with aircraft. The Tokyo earthquake is depicted in a manner that is both stylised and horrific, and there's a glimpse of Jiro realising what will happen to his dreams in the aftermath of war - but for the most part, the film is filled with rising wind, grass blowing, clouds scudding, hair lifted by updraughts in the same way that Fellini used the sound of wind to represent sensuality. One female critic I read moaned that the film was boring - yes, it's true that there's a discussion about rivets versus flat-head screws, but as Mike Leigh has shown, creativity turns on such things. A handful of critics have complained that the film does not directly address Japan's role in the war, but given that the greatest atrocity - Hiroshima - was not instigated by the Japanese, the less said the better, and besides, this is about something harder to explain - the drive to create.


Helen Martin (not verified) Tue, 04/11/2014 - 22:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Rivets vs flathead screws. You can't have machinery without nuts and bolts - or rivets as the case might be. The idea alone will not get a plane into the air.